Microsoft Backs Texas Wind Power Project


The software maker has signed a 20-year renewable energy purchasing agreement with a new Texas wind farm – which it is also backing financially

Microsoft has agreed to purchase 100 percent of the power generated by the Keechi Wind Farm Project in Texas for 20 years.

Headed by energy developer RES Americas, construction on the project is set to begin in December about 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth. By the end of 2015, it will encompass 55 wind turbines and generate 110 megawatts of electricity.

Power shift

“This power purchase agreement represents a sizable investment in the wind energy sector in Texas – which has a strong wind resource and has invested in building out its transmission infrastructure to improve integration of these resources into the broader grid,” noted Microsoft in a blog post. Texas, the company noted, derives 9.2 percent of its electricity from wind and leads the nation in wind power production “with a total of 12.2 gigawatts of capacity”.

439px-Microsoft_logo.svgThe move marks a shift for the company, according to Microsoft chief environmental strategist Rob Bernard. In addition to generating demand for renewable energy, the company is also pushing into the supply side of the equation.

Bernard said that “over the last few years we’ve increasingly purchased something called RECs – renewable energy credits (more than 2.3 billion kWh globally) – and so this is an opportunity to go to the next stage and invest directly in green energy.”

And were it not for Microsoft’s backing, the project would never have gotten off the ground, said RES chief executive Susan Reilly.

Reilly, also chair-elect of the board of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement that by inking the deal, “Microsoft is making the financing, construction and operation of this 110-megawatt project possible.”

“To be clear: It would not have happened otherwise,” she added.

Renewable power for the grid

Brian Janous, director of energy strategy at Microsoft Global Foundation Services, clarified that the power generated by the Keechi Wind Farm won’t be fed directly into his company’s data centres. “This project gives us a stake in putting more renewable power in the grid. We’re not having this power delivered directly to us,” he stated.

Nonetheless, the company hopes to make an impact on energy sourcing by adding more renewables into the mix. Microsoft will “continue to consume power as we always have for our buildings and data centres – but we’re affecting the mix of generation, adding 110MW of green power that wouldn’t have been there otherwise and displacing carbon fuels,” said Janous.

The wind power project marks the latest of several green computing and renewable energy initiatives from Microsoft. In January, the company announced a $348 million (£2220m) green data centre expansion to its facilities in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. “These facilities showcase state-of-the-art designs developed from our latest technology and infrastructure research that continues to minimise water, energy use and building costs, while increasing computing capacity, software capabilities and server utilisation,” Microsoft Data Centre Services general manager Christian Belady said in a statement.

On 22 April, Bernard touted his company’s progress regarding its internal carbon fee, which in turn helps finance carbon offset programmes. “The fee enables us to invest in renewable energy credits and certified offset projects to meet our carbon neutrality goal,” he said.

The Keechi Wind Farm Project is being bankrolled, in part, by funds generated by Microsoft’s internal carbon fee.

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Originally published on eWeek.