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Baltimore's Amazon Fulfillment Center Goes Solar

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Amazon grew into a retail powerhouse by harnessing technology.

Now it's using technology to create power, literally.

Alex DeMetrick report Baltimore is among the first of Amazon's fulfillment centers to go solar.

Retail on a massive scale takes a lot of electricity to keep moving.

Amazon's Baltimore fulfillment center is a million square feet.

That's about the size of the building's roof.

Big enough to hold thousands of solar panels.

"Each panel generates 320 watts of energy," says Tom Chandlee, Amazon renewable energy manager. "We have more than 6,000 of them, so that totals up to just under 2 million watts, or two megawatts of power this can generate when the sun is at its peak."

And the sun is what Amazon is counting on for two reasons. To leave a smaller carbon footprint on the environment, and to have smaller electric bills in the future.

"And we are going to see some savings," says Shan Byrne, general manager of the fulfillment center. "We're expecting about a 30 percent savings in our overall energy bill, which is great, because we can pass that savings on to our customers."

Baltimore is among the first of 15 plants to go solar. The goal is to expand that number to fifty by 2020.

Helping to power everything from robotics to lights, air conditioning and conveyor belts.

Solar is scaling up at Amazon, because its cost is going down.

"When I got in, solar cost like $2 a watt, which doesn't mean much to anyone else," says Yuri Horwitz, the CEO of Solsystems.

"Now it's at 35 cents to 40 cents a watt, to give you a sense of how fast costs have come down over time."

Meaning wherever the sun shines, solar systems are cheaper than ever -- a bargain that put 6,0000 panels on one Amazon center roof, and will add them to 49 more in the future.

Amazon declined to say what the total cost of the solar investment was.

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