Microsoft Goes Big On Renewable Energy With 1.5GW Generation And Investments In Solar Power Plants, Water Conservation For Its Data Centers

Microsoft is attempting to be one of the most environment-conscious tech companies. With substantial investments in the renewable energy segment including solar and water conservation initiatives, Microsoft could be on its way to running a significant portion of its operations on 100 percent sustainable, eco-friendly and renewable energy. The company is working with solar energy company First Solar and collaborating on the Sun Stream 2 photovoltaic (PV) solar plant to accelerate the timeline of going green and using only clean energy to power its multiple data centers and server warehouses.

To meet the growing demand of its data centers, enterprise, and commercial cloud service solutions back-end, and other operations, Microsoft is eagerly looking at renewable energy sources. The company appears to be keenly interested in reducing its carbon footprint. To meets its rather ambitious goals of powering its operations majorly through renewable energy sources, Microsoft has significantly scaled up its investments in sustainable and eco-friendly energy sources like solar power.

The company’s data center and server center located in the Arizona area is quickly becoming a prominent example that shows how a large enterprise can rely on renewable energy sources to power its energy-intensive and critical operations. Needless to add, these data centers run operations round the clock and hence, need a reliable always-on electrical supply. To ensure they receive power without interruptions, Microsoft has partnered with a few leading companies in the renewable energy sector in the U.S.

Microsoft Accelerates Towards Its Goal Of Majorly Relying On Renewable Solar Energy To Power Its Operations:

Microsoft has been steadily investing to reduce the environmental impact of their operations for a little more than 10 years. The company is rapidly expanding its scalable, highly available and resilient cloud services. Microsoft claims it is now actively offering its remotely hosted data and cloud services to more than a billion customers across the world. Needless to add, such operations require a lot of power. But instead of burdening the already-stressed local power generation companies that run on unsustainable and polluting fossil fuels, the company has been steadily building and operating more efficient and sustainable data centers.

Microsoft has set a rather lofty goal of meeting almost all of its energy needs through renewable or alternate energy sources within the next foreseeable future. While this may seem a little ambitious, the Windows OS maker and provider of Azure and other popular platforms, has already managed to reach the 50 percent mark in this year. Moreover, the company claims it will get 60 percent of its data centers’ energy need to be met with sustainable energy sources, which mainly include solar power, within this year itself. If the company stays on track with the deployment and reliance on such non-polluting energy sources, it might well end up powering all its data centers with 100 percent renewable energy sources. Incidentally, Microsoft has set staggered goals for this very achievement. Its official self-set next milestone is running its datacenters with 70 percent eco-friendly energy sources by 2023.

Microsoft appears to increasingly prefer the Arizona region in Texas to deploy its ever-larger data centers. The company has already partnered with the Arizona-based solar energy company First Solar and is collaborating on the Sun Stream 2 photovoltaic (PV) solar plant. After full-scale deployment, the solar power plant will generate 150MW of clean energy. Microsoft is expected to pull all the generated power to carry the load of each of the company’s new data centers in the area. The company justified its reasons for opting for such a location through Brian Janous – General Manager, Energy & Sustainability, Microsoft.

We’ve chosen Arizona as the location for the development of new world-class data center campuses to support the growing demand for cloud and internet services in Arizona and across the Western United States. We intend to develop our new datacenter campuses in El Mirage and Goodyear, Arizona to be among the most sustainably designed and operated in the world – powered with 100% renewable energy. Arizona has been increasingly embracing the technology industry with a pool of growing talent, affordable quality of life for employees, and as many 200 as sunny days a year making it an ideal location for investing in solar power.

Microsoft To Offer Its Data Center’s Capabilities To Run Services Of Eco-Friendly Companies:

Microsoft confirmed that it has signed a 20-year agreement with First Solar for the Sun Streams 2 PV solar plant to power its new energy-efficient data centers. The power plant should be operational in about two years. Incidentally, the solar power company is using its own Series 6 module technology which the company claims has a carbon footprint that is up to six times lower than conventionally-manufactured crystalline silicon PV panels. The power plant is expected to begin construction soon.

It is interesting to note that Microsoft’s partnership will also benefit the companies that design, build and deploy large solar power plants and other eco-friendly power generation units. While Microsoft gets clean energy, these companies get access to Microsoft’s powerful data centers and other products, services and platforms as well. First Solar, for example, now has privileged access to Microsoft’s intelligent cloud services, including Azure IoT Hub and SQL Data Warehouse. The partnership essentially allows First Solar to boost operating efficiencies and supports its innovation to the company’s manufacturing facilities. In the recent past, we have seen Microsoft etching such synergistic and mutually beneficial partnership. It essentially indicates the company is keen to explore multiple possibilities to get organizations to adopt and use its platforms, irrespective of their business, products or services.

Microsoft Looking Beyond Solar To Boost Sustainable Development:

Microsoft appears to be actively going green and build a tech world that doesn’t consume local resources at an accelerated pace. The company’s commitment to renewable and clean energy sources is an important and long term project. However, as a tech giant, Microsoft is also setting good examples for the management of other local resources that it consumes daily.

“Our data center design and operations will contribute to the sustainability of our Arizona facilities. In Arizona, we’re also pursuing LEED Gold certification which will help conserve additional resources including energy and water, generate less waste and support human health. We’re committed to zero waste-certified operations for these new data centers which means a minimum of 90% of waste will be diverted away from landfills through reduction, reuse and recycling efforts.”

Microsoft is designing its data centers and server warehouses in such a way they will use as little water as possible. The company is also making progress to ensure the planned data centers will use zero water for cooling for more than half the year. Microsoft’s data centers now extensively use outside air instead of water for cooling when temperatures permit.  When temperatures rise, the company switches over to evaporative cooling. Incidentally, the First Solar Sun Stream 2 power plant could save as much as 356 million liters of water per year compared to traditional power generation.

Microsoft’s renewable energy partnerships have brought in about 1.5 GW (Giga Watts) of energy to-date. In this year alone, the company has pledged more than $800,000 towards its ultimate goal of running all its data centers on renewable, clean energy sources. Microsoft is also part of Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan and has confirmed it would match the total donation made by locals to the Water Funder Initiative that will support the state’s efforts to meet the commitments of the contingency plan.

Apart from saving water and generating its own sustainable and eco-friendly power, Microsoft is actively participating in water conservation and rejuvenation projects that aim to protect and nurture local water bodies like lakes. Interestingly, the company recently acquired OpenAI, a company that conducts research to better utilize the power of Artificial Intelligence. The organization has conducted several studies in the past for better protection of natural resources. This agreement with renewable energy producers could soon expand into a unique and powerful solution for boosting the efficiency of PV cells and improving other eco-friendly power generating processes as well.


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