Some of the biggest technology companies around the world have been working hard on making their infrastructure less toxic to the environment – running these massive data centers requires a lot of power, which in turn creates greenhouse emissions.
Microsoft has today announced their largest wind energy purchase till date – 237 megawatts, enough to power Microsoft’s data center in Cheyenne, Wyoming entirely. Microsoft is also making available its on-site natural gas turbine backup generators to the local grid, helping the grid increase reliability while keeping prices low for all ratepayers.
The wind, solar, and hydropower generate forty-four percent of the energy consumed by Microsoft’s data centers – Microsoft revealed this earlier this year, along with a plan to increase the amount of clean energy used by Microsoft’s data centers to 50 percent by 2018, and 60 percent by early in the next decade.
Today’s announcement brings the total amount of wind energy consumed by Microsoft’s data centers in the U.S. to a bit more than 500 megawatts – note that’s just the wind energy, not solar or hydro.
The hidden innovation
Microsoft mentions that this announcement also brings a unique innovation to the way a grid distributes power; to fulfill the expansive energy needs for Microsoft’s data center, Black Hills Energy – the local energy company – was faced with the reality of building a new energy plant in Cheyenne.
Instead of doing that, Microsoft approached Black Hills Energy with an innovative idea – use the natural gas turbine backup generators to pump power into the grid. The power company, in partnership with Microsoft, introduced a new tariff for eligible customers in the area; allowing the energy company to utilize Microsoft’s backup generators as a secondary power resource for the main grid.
This one innovation not only helps the environment, as Black Hills Energy doesn’t have to build a new plant but also helps ratepayers save money, for the same reason.
There’s one issue to point out, though: the data center is powered entirely by wind energy, but because Microsoft is lending its natural gas turbine backup generators to the utility company, it’s not quite clean all the way; if only solar could become a more efficient energy source.
You can read more about Microsoft’s announcement, and its vision for a cleaner future over here.
Image Credit: Markus Spiske