Microsoft Announces New Investment to Power a Greener Cloud

Brian Janous, Utility ArchitectBrian Janous, Director of Energy Strategy
Global Foundation Services

As Microsoft continues to experience increasing customer global demand for our cloud and online services like Bing,MSNOffice 365Xbox LiveSkyDriveSkype, and the Windows Azure platform, we are also thoughtfully planning for sustainably growing what is already one of the world's largest cloud infrastructures. 

As we think about this growth and its relation to our energy supply, we're working to address not only how electricity is used and distributed inside of our datacenters, but also how our consumption of electricity impacts the broader grid.

To that end, today we are excited to announce our first long-term renewable energy purchase commitment. We have agreed to purchase the entire power output of the 110MW Keechi Wind project in Jack County, Texas. Keechi Wind is a wholly owned subsidiary of RES Americas Developments Inc.   This project is consistent with our objective to reduce the cost and environmental impact of supplying power to our datacenters.

Here are some of the key reasons we chose to invest in the Keechi project:

  • Green power:  Consistent with our commitment to carbon neutrality, we are continually searching for ways to integrate more renewable power into our portfolio, both to lower our emissions and reduce our long-term cost for power.
  • Wind is a smart choice:  The economics of wind energy have been improving over the last several years with higher turbine efficiency and lower development costs, such that many wind projects are delivering power to the grid at parity with fossil fuel technologies.
  • Grid-connected projects align with datacenter scale and density:  To achieve our corporate carbon neutrality objective, we are focused on finding projects that can efficiently scale to match the size of our operations. Projects like Keechi are ideal because they can be sited in locations that are most efficient in terms of wind production and integration into the grid.
  • This project complements our investments in other areas:  Beyond grid-scale projects, we are also pursuing opportunities for distributed generation (behind-the-meter) at the site level. We discussed in a recent blog post the marvel of the modern electric grid and how the centralization of power generation was the spark to drive massive innovation across multiple industries. Today, there is a movement towards the adoption of more distributed generation (rooftop solar, fuel cells, etc.), but the opportunity of distributed generation does not negate the benefit afforded by the broader electric grid. In fact, in most applications, the value of distributed generation is a result of a connection to the broader grid. As we continue to grow our datacenter footprint, we will further innovate at the distributed level (e.g. the Data Plant) while also including large utility-scale projects in our portfolio to the extent that both can drive down costs and improve efficiency at the site and grid level.

Our path for delivering power to supply Microsoft's cloud infrastructure is focused both on how we optimize for efficiency inside our footprint, but also how we integrate and invest in driving greater sustainability and scalable efficiencies in the broader energy supply chain. We have three overarching goals that drive us in this effort. 

  • Distribute hyper-efficient generation solutions to the datacenter that radically reduce the amount of energy required to deliver cloud services.
  • Deliver to the grid low-cost and efficient energy through participation in utility-scale generation projects.
  • Developthe next generation of energy technologies that will make future distributed and grid-connected projects radically more efficient.

We look forward to continuing to provide updates on our progress on all three fronts. For more details on today's announcement, please read this blog post from Microsoft's Chief Environmental Strategist, Rob Bernard. 

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Brian Janous, Director of Energy Strategy, Global Foundation Services