Equinix has signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for 151MW of wind power in Australia.

The global colocation giant has agreed to pay for 20 percent of the first phase of the giant Golden Plains Wind Farm project, which is being built in rural Victoria, not far from Melbourne, and will be the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere when complete.

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Golden Plains Wind Farm under construction – Zoe Fraser & Hugo Bittar, AFTRS / TagEnergy

Golden Plains Wind Farm East, the first part of a 1300MW wind farm which will also include Golden Plains Wind Farm West, is due to eventually reach 756MW, with 122 turbines and cost $2 billion. It will start to come online in 2025.

The first 300MW has been contracted by Snowy Hydro, and Equinix is buying capacity which will not come on stream until January 1, 2029.

The wind farm is being built with Vestas Wind Systems turbines, near the town of Rokewood in the Golden Plains Shire. 60 km north-west of Geelong. When the East and West parts are complete, it is due to contribute nine percent of Victoria's energy use, (two percent of Australia's energy) and prevent three percent of Victoria's greenhouse emissions, according to TagEnergy.

The deal is Equinix's first long-term renewable energy agreement in APAC. In this region, PPAs have traditionally been more challenging, according to Kevin Hagen, interim CEO of the Clean Energy Buyers Association, a group that includes major cloud players such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.

The deal should match the energy used by Equinix's 17 IBX data centers in Australia, according to the release.

"Data center operators and other large buyers like Equinix have accelerated the clean energy transition by executing PPAs and other contracts that create long-term financial stability for developers of wind, solar, and other clean energy resources," said Hagan. "These transactions have changed the electricity market in the US and Europe. Now high impact deals like this are helping to lead the effort to drive local demand and shift markets in regions where there is even more opportunity for decarbonization such as Australia, India, and Southeast Asia."

Under PPAs, large customers finance renewable energy projects such as wind and solar farms, adding to the clean energy on local grids.

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Vestas turbines at Macarthur Wind Farm, Victoria – Vestas Wind Systems

“To date, Equinix has executed 21 PPAs globally, and as we expand our global data center footprint, we will continue to assess opportunities for greening the grids that we move into,” said Christopher Wellise, Equinix's vice president of sustainability. “Once this expansion of the Golden Plains Wind Farm – East project is completed in 2029, our impact through all 21 PPAs will amount to more than one gigawatt of renewable energy added to local grids. In combination with other sustainability efforts, this will bring Equinix to 100 percent renewable coverage across all of our operations globally.”

Equinix has promised to reduce its emissions by 50 percent, by 2030, according to an approved short-term science-based target, and to use all renewable energy by that date.

Equinix is not currently working on 24/7 PPAs, but "everything is on the table," Equinix's VP of sustainability Christopher Wellise told DCD today. "24/7 is on the roadmap, but we are gettin to 100 percent renewable first."

The company started using PPAs in 2015 with two deals in Texas and Oklahoma for 225 MW. In late 2021 and early 2022, Equinix signed three separate PPAs in Finland for a total of 144 MW of new-build wind capacity projects. In 2023 it added 15 more wind and solar PPAs in Europe, including in Sweden, two in Spain, Portugal, and France all of which add up to 500MW.

Pushing the market on

PPAs have been hard to acquire outside of developed markets in Europe and the Americas, and Equinix has previously outlined to DCD that its policy is to use the best means to fund energy purchases in any given geography. In the past, this has meant using unbundled energy attribution certificates (EACs), which do not directly fund new projects.

"In some locations, unbundled EACs are the only option available, and we choose to do something rather than nothing in these markets," Equinix director Bruce Frandsen told DCD in 2023.

However, PPAs themselves have been criticized, because they finance large amounts of renewable energy production from intermittent renewable sources, which does not match the times when energy is used, so the customer's infrastructure still consumes carbon-intensive power at other times.

Operators have been urged to move to 24/7 PPAs that match production and consumption, with Google and Microsoft the most vocal advocates of this shift.

Equinix has said it "plans to shift its focus from virtual PPAs and renewable energy credits (RECs), to physical delivery of renewable energy, wherever possible."

Snowy Hydro signed in August 2023 for 40 percent of Golden Plains Wind Farm East.

“We’re proud to enter Golden Plains’ second, significant PPA with Equinix," said Andrew Riggs, TagEnergy Managing Partner, Australia. "We look forward to supporting them to meet their global 100 percent renewables target, as we work to drive the energy transition and ensure energy security for future generations.”