Microsoft to provide power-grid-stabilisation services in Ireland

Alice Chambers
Alice Chambers
By Alice Chambers on 08 July 2022
Microsoft to provide power-grid-stabilisation services in Ireland
Gene Twedt, Microsoft

Christian Belady, vice president of Microsoft’s data centre advanced development group, stands next to a two-phase immersion cooling tank at a Microsoft data centre

Microsoft will use grid-interactive uninterruptible power supply (UPS) at its data centre in Dublin to provide power-grid-stabilisation services in Ireland. The initiative is part of the company’s aim to accelerate grid-decarbonisation in partnership with transmission system operator EirGrid.

The project is a result of Microsoft’s research into grid-interactive UPS, which was conducted with the help of power management company Eaton. The organisations performed proof-of-concept experiments in 2020 at a Microsoft data centre in Chicago, USA, and then continued to refine this technology at the Microsoft data centre in Quincy, Washington.

EirGrid runs a market for grid services that prioritise non-carbon-emitting solutions. Microsoft is participating in this market through Enel X, an energy services and solutions provider. 

Microsoft will equip its data centre in Dublin with a UPS featuring lithium-ion batteries. These batteries will provide backup power for the data centre in case of emergency and have been certified, tested and approved for connection to the grid when demand exceeds the supply generated by wind, solar and other sources.

More than 35 per cent of Ireland’s energy sources are currently renewable and this is expected to increase to 80 per cent by 2030. The ability to use the batteries at the data centre reduces the need to maintain spinning reserve at power plants for when renewable energy supplies do not meet demand, which lowers the emissions produced by the power sector.

“By relying on grid-interactive UPS technology for grid services, end consumers across Ireland would save tens of millions of dollars on fuel and other costs require to maintain the spinning reserve at coal and natural gas fired power plants,” said John Roach in a recent Microsoft blog.

Replacing grid services that are currently provided by fossil fuel power plants with grid-interactive UPS systems will eliminate two million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2025, according to energy advisory firm Baringa and Microsoft’s project will contribute towards this.

“We have this battery asset in the data centre that is just sitting there,” said Christian Belady, engineer and vice president of Microsoft’s data centre advanced development group. “Why don’t we offer it to the grid and come up with a dynamic way of managing it as a dual-purpose asset and thus drive more efficiency and asset utilisation? That’s what drove this win-win situation.”

The grid-interactive UPS initiative is part of Microsoft’s commitment to be carbon negative by 2030. Microsoft is also experimenting with liquid immersion cooling for servers and hydrogen fuel cells for backup power generation at its data centres.

“The long-term vision is to turn the data centre assets into something that can provide social benefit outside of our own operations,” said Nur Bernhardt, senior programme manager for energy at Microsoft.

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