Microsoft buys Texas wind farm to help power data center

E&E • Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Microsoft Corp. is moving to close the gap with other technology giants by agreeing to buy all the electricity produced by a Texas wind project to power one of its data centers.

The deal represents the company’s first direct purchase of renewable energy: a 20-year deal to purchase the power produced by a 110-megawatt wind project 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth, Texas. The Keechi project, by Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., will begin construction early in 2014.

The wind farm will not supply all the data center’s power, but the company and analysts said Microsoft’s decision to use its corporate muscle to push more renewable energy onto the grid represented an important step forward. Data centers are a large and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Unlike Microsoft’s earlier investments in clean energy, which were through the purchase of renewable energy credits, the Keechi wind farm would bring additional wind capacity into the Texas electricity supply chain. That would displace coal and natural gas and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Without our capital, we know this plant would not have been built,” said Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist.

Six big Internet companies — Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Rackspace Hosting Inc., Inc. and Box Inc. — have committed to 100 percent renewable power for their data centers. Microsoft, though not among them, committed last year to be “carbon neutral,” imposing its own internal carbon marketplace.

The company also said it was preparing further announcements on its greening efforts in the weeks ahead (Suzanne Goldenberg, London Guardian, Nov. 4).