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AWS buys a data centre campus with two nuclear plants attached

Will suck up 40% of two nuclear power stations' output under Talen Energy deal.

The Susquehanna power plant.

Amazon has agreed to buy a data centre campus attached to the US’s sixth largest nuclear power facility – and build it out to up to 960 MW capacity.

That would represent nearly 40% of the output of the nuclear facility.

Under the terms of the $650 million deal with Talen Energy, AWS will get “long-term, carbon-free power… through fixed-price power commitments” via the campus’s “Susquehanna” nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

“Each step-up in capacity commitment has a fixed price for an initial 10-year term, after which it reprices based on a fixed margin above PJM [an energy benchmark] and capacity prices” Talen Energy said March 4.

AWS has minimum contractual power commitments that ramp up in 120 MW increments over several years and a one-time option to cap commitments at 480 MW. The nuclear plant comprises two units with a 2.5 GW gross capacity that were first commissioned in 1982 and 1984.

The deal comes amid heightened pressure on data centre operators both to secure adequate stable power supplies and to rein in emissions growth. 

Amazon is the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, but with CapEx of $48.4 billion in 2023 (a figure expected to rise notably in 2024) driven primarily by energy-hungry data centre expansions.

Its 2022 sustainability report (Amazon’s most recent) shows that in 2022 alone it announced 133 new renewable energy projects that are expected to come online over the next five years, bringing total announced projects to over 400 globally. That expansion comes as one study showed that the cloud now has a greater carbon footprint than the airline industry.

Data centres in the EU meanwhile used an estimated 45–65 TWh of electricity in 2022, a new European Union study showed this month.

Among other recent unusual energy choices meanwhile, Amazon is swapping electric forklifts for 400 fuel cell-powered alternatives – with hydrogen fuel provider Plug Power installing an electrolyser at an Amazon fulfilment centre in Colorado in December that will make use of surplus, locally generated renewable energy to create hydrogen. 

See also: AWS’s S3 data replication falters in US-EAST-1 as hyperscaler tackles "backlog"