Microsoft has announced it has signed new wind farm contracts that commit the company to buying 237 megawatts of wind energy, enough to power its zero-carbon data center in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The company says it has contracted to purchase wind from a 178 megawatt Bloom Wind farm in Kansas, and 59 megawatts from the Silver Sage and Happy Jack farms in Wyoming. This is in addition to its existing 75-megawatt wind farm agreement in Illinois and 110-megawatt contract in Texas, meaning this latest news takes the company past the 500 megawatt mark.
For the Silver Sage and Happy Jack farms in Wyoming, Microsoft is partnering with Black Hills Energy, and Microsoft has revealed that its data center’s backup generators will be offered for use as a “secondary resource” for the entire grid, meaning that during times of high demand, Microsoft will actually be providing electricity to the local community. The company says that it approached Black Hills Energy with this offer when it discovered that Black Hills Energy was considering building a new plant in Cheyenne, and the two subsequently teamed up to offer a new tariff and avoid having to build the plant.
“This is a small step toward a future where other customer-sited resources may help make the grid more efficient, reliable, and capable of integrating intermittent energy sources like wind and solar,” explained Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft. “Unlike traditional backup generators that run on diesel fuel, these natural gas turbines offer a more efficient solution and, more importantly, ensure the utility avoids building a new power plant.”
Microsoft opened its Wyoming data center in 2011. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a public commitment to increase its reliance on renewable energies from 44 percent today to 50 percent by 2018 and 60 percent by “early in the next decade.” It’s not the only technology company that’s investing in green energy though — a few months back, Amazon announced its biggest renewable energy project to date in the form of a 253-megawatt Texas wind farm, which is scheduled to open in 2017.