Wind to power Microsoft's Texas data center

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Microsoft has agreed to purchase energy produced by a Texas wind farm to power its data center in San Antonio.  The announcement, posted on the official blog of Microsoft's Sustainability Development Team, describes a 20-year power purchase agreement with RES Americas under which Microsoft will purchase all of the output of the 110 megawatt Keechi Wind project located about 280 miles north.

The power purchase agreement fits with Microsoft's stated commitment to carbon neutrality.  Since 2012, Microsoft has imposed an internal fee on the use of carbon-based forms of energy; Microsoft uses that fee to make investments in alternative or carbon-neutral energy, such as this power purchase agreement.

The Keechi project will be owned and operated by RES Americas, a subsidiary of British company RES Ltd.  RES Americas currently operates over 600 MW of renewable energy projects, and has a renewable energy construction portfolio that exceeds 6,500 MW and 64 projects, as well as 534 miles of transmission lines.  Its Keechi project is expected to cost $200 million, and will feature 55 turbines expected to produce 430,000 megawatt hours of energy per year.  (To put this figure in context, it could power up to 45,000 homes, or cover between 5 and 10 percent of Microsoft's total electricity consumption.)  Construction is expected to begin in 2014, with the project going operational by June 2015.

Microsoft is not alone in promoting its use of renewable or alternative energy to power its data centers.  In 2012 Google entered into an agreement to purchase the output of a wind farm in Oklahoma to power its Pryor data center.  Apple's new data center in Maiden, North Carolina is powered in part by a solar photovoltaic array and a biogas-fed fuel celleBay has proposed siting a 6 megawatt natural gas-fired fuel cell at its Utah data center.  Whether the data center is powered by on-site distributed generation or buys power from a designated off-site renewable resource, the trend is toward promoting cleaner, greener computing through these arrangements.  These choices may help the companies with cost control and power reliability as well as public relations.

Will large consumers of electricity continue to invest in alternative or renewable electric generation?  If so, will they favor arms-length power purchase agreements with developers of remote projects, or will they rely more heavily on on-campus development of distributed generation?  Will this trend spread beyond the big names so far - Microsoft, Apple, Google, and eBay - to the point where smaller or less tech-oriented companies develop or do similar projects and deals?
  Googa 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy in Texas that will be funded in part by proceeds from Microsoft’s carbon fee - See more at: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft-green/archive/2013/11/04/microsoft-signing-long-term-deal-to-buy-wind-energy-in-texas.aspx#sthash.4l62oNbo.dpuf
a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy in Texas that will be funded in part by proceeds from Microsoft’s carbon fee - See more at: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft-green/archive/2013/11/04/microsoft-signing-long-term-deal-to-buy-wind-energy-in-texas.aspx#sthash.4l62oNbo.dpuf
a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy in Texas that will be funded in part by proceeds from Microsoft’s carbon fee - See more at: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft-green/archive/2013/11/04/microsoft-signing-long-term-deal-to-buy-wind-energy-in-texas.aspx#sthash.4l62oNbo.dpuf

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