Microsoft has said a data centre it operates in Cheyenne, Wyoming, will be powered entirely by wind energy following its purchase of 237 megawatts of wind power, the company’s largest such buy to date.
The facility, used to help power cloud-based services including Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, will use 178 megawatts from the Bloom Wind Project in Kansas and another 59 megawatts from the Happy Jack and Silver Sage wind farms in Wyoming, Microsoft said.
The company said the way it structured the purchases could set a precedent making future large renewable energy deals easier to carry out.
For the Bloom purchase, Microsoft contracted with Allianz Risk Transfer (ART), which in May announced a financial instrument intended to offer Bloom stable long-term revenues to offset its high up-front costs.Microsoft said it is the first buyer in the ART arrangement.
“This structure offers a new model to enable faster adoption of renewables,” Smith added. “It does so by lowering costs, reducing risks and improving certainty.”
Microsoft purchased the remaining power through Black Hills Energy, a utility based in nearby Rapid City, South Dakota, that traces its roots to the Black Hills Electric Light Company of Deadwood, which provided electricity to the notorious frontier mining town when the invention was mostly unknown outside of major cities.
Black Hills Energy was faced with the possible need to build a new plant in Cheyenne to support the data centre’s power consumption, which would have increased overall costs to rate-payers, Microsoft said.
Instead, Microsoft worked with the utility to establish a new tariff, made available to other customers, that lets the grid use the data centre’s backup generators as a secondary resource for the entire grid.
The arrangement allows the data centre to rely on intermittent power sources such as wind and solar without the construction of new grid infrastructure, meaning there should be no increase in rates, according to Microsoft.
It argued the deal could serve as a model for future projects relying on renewable energy.
“Microsoft envisions a future where it and other customers bring their own assets to utilities, whether new renewables, energy storage or even cloud technologies that optimise customer usage patterns, to help create a lower-cost, more efficient and cleaner energy grid,” Smith wrote.
Microsoft said its total purchases of wind energy in the US now amount to more than 500 megawatts, in addition to wind, solar and hydropower purchases in other areas.
About 44 percent of its data centre power now comes from wind, solar and hydropower, a figure it aims to raise to 50 percent by 2018.
The power includes a total of 236 megawatts from a 50 turbine project near Stavanger in Norway, to be completed by late 2017, and a 22 turbine project near Mariestad and Töreboda set to be ready by 2018.
The deals mean Google now has seven agreements in Europe, including four in Sweden, amounting to 500 megawatts. Globally, Google has 18 such deals totalling 2.5 Gigawatts.
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