Microsoft has signed agreements with two wind farms to move towards its aim of generating 50% of the power used by its data centres via renewable energy sources by 2018.
The company has procured 178MW from the Bloom Wind Project in Kansas via Allianz Risk Transfer, and partnered with Black Hills Energy to purchase wind power from the 59MW Happy Jack and Silver Sage wind farms in Wyoming. Microsoft will use this power to run its data centre in Cheyenne, Wyoming (US) on clean energy, rather than traditional diesel generators.
Microsoft has also signed a new tariff agreement with Black Hills Energy, which gives the utility the ability to draw energy from the Cheyenne data centre’s normally dormant backup generators. This will enable Black Hills Energy to use Microsoft’s data centre as a resource to provide additional clean energy to Cheyenne’s residents and businesses. It also eliminates the need for the utilities provider to build a new power plant.
“One of the things that makes our relationship with Microsoft extraordinary is our partnership and ability to collaborate with them so we can facilitate the strong growth profile Microsoft has requested,” said Shirley Welte, vice president of operations for Wyoming at Black Hills Energy. “I think it’s a creative model for the industry, and it sets this relationship apart from what other utilities or energy providers have with data centres.”
Currently, about 44% of the power for Microsoft’s data centres is generated by wind, solar and hydropower sources. This May, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith set a target of 50% by 2018, 60% for early in the next decade and an ultimate goal of achieving 100% in the future. It is hoped these two new deals will contribute towards Microsoft reaching the 2018 goal.
“For the first time, we have a holistic solution to maintain reliability on the grid and at the same time, create an environment to allow for more intermittent renewable energy,” said Brian Janous, director of energy strategy at Microsoft. “It’s really solving both sides of the equation at one time. The traditional mindset in the industry is that we build data centres with backup generation. The result is a less than optimal solution for both the data centre and the grid. At Microsoft, we recognise that we’re building power plants that happen to have data centres next to them. And that changes everything.”