The largest wind farm project in the U.S. faces pushback from Big Tech

Warren Buffett’s Berkeshire Hathaway Inc. wants to invest $3.9 billion to build a renewable energy farm in Iowa, the biggest in the U.S. so far. Big Tech companies in the region are, however, opposed to it, Bloomberg reported

Big names in the technology industry such as Google, Microsoft, and Meta have been at the forefront of a push for renewable energy in the U.S. These companies often run their own power-hungry data centers, and over the years, these companies have worked to make them greener. In 2020, Google CEO Sundar Pichai pledged that the company’s energy will be sourced in a carbon-free manner by 2030.

Bloomberg also reported that in other parts of the country, the tech bigwigs had pushed utility companies to shift to cleaner sources of energy. So, why are they opposing Warren Buffett’s plan? 

Warren Buffett’s renewable energy farm

Earlier in January this year,  MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, unveiled a $3.9 billion project plan to the Iowa Utilities Board. The plan consists of wind and solar energy farms to be established in the state, CNBC reported

According to a company statement, the project dubbed Wind Prime will generate 2,042 MW of energy using wind, an additional 50 MW using solar, and could wrap up construction by late 2024 if granted approval. At planned capacity, the project is certainly the largest wind farm to be ever built in the U.S., dwarfing the 1,550 MW capacity Alta Wind Energy Center in California.  

MidAmerican’s current power generation is largely wind-based, but the company also uses a combination of coal, nuclear and other sources for about 42 percent of its power supply. The company said that the WIND Prime project was also key to helping the company reach its own zero-emission goals. If approved by October, the project would also help the company qualify for $1.8 billion worth of renewable energy credits from the federal government, Bloomberg reported. 

Big Tech’s opposition

In an email to Bloomberg, a Google spokesperson said that the WIND Prime project was not in the best interests of the customer and that the company had filed its opposition along with Iowa Utilities Board, jointly with Meta’s company Facebook. Both Facebook and Google run data centers in the state of Iowa and are concerned that the Wind Prime project is “exceedingly costly” and engages in a “massive increase in (power) generation” that the energy company has not demonstrated is necessary. 

Microsoft has also decided to join this coalition and wrote to the state utility board in this regard. While these companies have plans to run operations in a carbon-free manner and are also working in this direction, it is abundantly clear that the Big Tech also wants to decide when and where to switch to clean energy on its own terms, Bloomberg said in its report. 

It is likely that the companies will buy power from the renewable energy farm when it goes online in the near future. But as major purchasers of power, they also want to ensure that renewable energy is supplied at pocket-friendly rates.  

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. 

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