Microsoft has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to procure solar energy in Ohio.

Apex Clean Energy this week announced its 125MW Wheatsborough Solar project in Ohio has been contracted under the Microsoft–Volt Energy Utility Environmental Justice Framework.

Solar panels and horses
– Sebastian Moss

The Wheatsborough project in Erie County – between Cleveland and Toledo – was approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board in September 2021. Construction commenced around August 2023 and will continue through December 2024. Commercial operations are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2025.

“As Microsoft works toward a more sustainable and equitable future, it’s exciting to see our collaboration with Volt supplying new renewable energy with an organization like Apex,” said Kourtney Nelson, director of renewable energy procurement at Microsoft.

“As we look to meet our ambitious clean energy goals, it’s critical that we deliver benefits to under-resourced communities—and that’s what this project will do.”

Microsoft and Volt Energy Utility, a minority-owned solar energy development firm, developed the framework in 2021 to ‘leverage corporate emmissionality goals to support environmental justice, community, and diversity initiatives.’ At the time the deal was due to see Volt supply Microsoft with 250MW of utility-scale solar energy, and invest a portion of the revenue from the PPA in community impact funding initiatives.

This new deal with Apex will see a percentage of the revenue produced by the PPA invested into the Volt Energy-founded Sharing the Power Foundation, which is focused on environmental health and economic justice in historically underserved urban and rural communities.

“Working to bring the benefits of solar energy to Erie County in collaboration with Microsoft and Apex Clean Energy, who share a commitment to community and the environment, is vitally important to our company,” said Gilbert Campbell, CEO of Volt Energy Utility and board chair of the Sharing the Power Foundation.

“Developing renewable energy projects that are reliable and sustainable is imperative; prioritizing equitable deployment will further elevate our industry’s overall impact,” added Ken Young, CEO of Apex. “This agreement allows Wheatsborough Solar to move beyond the megawatt, creating a lasting impact in the local community and beyond.”

Founded in 2009, Apex has a portfolio of wind and solar projects across the US in operation or development totaling 60GW. It has previously signed PPA deals with Meta in Iowa and Google in North Carolina.

2023 saw Microsoft sign renewable energy deals in Texas, Virginia, Washington, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and New Zealand.

While it doesn’t have a cloud region in Ohio, Microsoft has acquired hundreds of acres of land around Columbus on which it plans to develop data centers.