Across the southeastern U.S., wind turbines are spinning on hilltops, and solar panels stretch across roofs and fields.

Michael Vandenbergh of Vanderbilt Law School says part of the reason is that large companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are demanding low-carbon energy for their facilities.

Vandenbergh: “When they are looking to relocate facilities in the Southeast, they are often saying ‘We’ll relocate our data center in your state, but we want 100 percent renewable power when we do that.’ And what that is doing is producing private market pressure within states to reduce carbon emissions.”

For example, Facebook is building a new data center near Atlanta. The almost one-million-square-foot building will be powered by hundreds of acres of solar panels, installed by the local utility.

Vandenbergh says many people in the Southeast are wary of government-led energy projects. But the demand by private companies for clean energy can help shift public opinions.

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Vandenbergh: “It changes the dialogue from a big-government versus not-big-government question to one about how are we going to account for the fact that the marketplace is demanding low carbon power.”

And he says that can ultimately help generate more widespread support for clean energy projects.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
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Diana Madson

Diana Madson has been a regular contributor with Yale Climate Connections since April 2014. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition...