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Microsoft Investing in Renewable Green Energy in Texas
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December 09, 2013

Microsoft Investing in Renewable Green Energy in Texas

By Daniel Brecht
Contributing Writer

Software and technology giant, Microsoft (News - Alert) Corporation, is no stranger to programs for renewable energy and green computing programs. In spite of its use of massive amounts of electricity to power and cool its data centers, it does consider them a top priority. To date, Microsoft has already explored the integration of fuel cells directly into the server racks of the datacenter as a way to ensure cleaner energy and sustainability.

In becoming more environmentally friendly, Microsoft has already invested in sustainable green energy as a major transformative eco-friendly technology, says Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist. In fact, “the Environmental Protection Agency recognized Microsoft as the second largest purchaser of green power in the U.S.,” Bernard affirmed.

On top of taking a stance on environmental sustainability, with its own proactive actions to dispose of used electronics so they can be reused and recycled whereby reducing the amount of toxic chemicals that cause harm to the environment, some years back Microsoft placed 2,288 solar panels on four building rooftops at its Silicon Valley campus as a way to help reduce the demand for electricity and curb greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emissions.

Last month, it planned construction of a "green" cloud data center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It "will be the first direct integration of a data center with a biogas source,” Microsoft stated in one of its blog posts. Most recently, instead, it turned to the wind turbine industry to accelerate the green innovation and drive forward more sustainable energy production and use. 

Nowadays, Microsoft’s position is to address the daunting environmental challenges facing the world today so businesses in cities can know how to improve the environment, by being more energy efficient, and achieve sustainability.

Microsoft’s green revolution and commitment to become carbon neutral made it take part of The Green Grid (News - Alert) consortium and Climate Savers program; it assumes a role in spreading the word on how the general public can be more involved in providing opportunities for eco-friendly efficiency, as well as establish ways to integrate renewable energy sources like sun and wind.

The Microsoft Green Blog, in fact, had been created to help make this transformation happen. The site is used to reach out to listeners who are interested in knowing what steps can be taken to reduce their own carbon footprint and be environmentally conscious, in such ways to optimize their current use of energy: Deployment of smart meters, using cloud computing, mobile devices, and/or big data are some of Microsoft’s initiatives supporting IT-enabled energy solutions, which are suggested as essential tools for clean energy investment to operate with a much lower output of carbon, based on what product lines they’re using.

Last month, Microsoft signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Renewable Energy Systems (RES) Americas, a renewable energy company that is involved in the development and construction of wind projects across North America, to buy 100 percent of the electricity generated from the soon-to-be-built Keechi Wind Farm Project. The wind farm, which is to begin this month with an anticipated date of completion set for 2015, is a $200 million project that will be comprised of 55 wind turbines that will pump out 110-megawatts of electricity. It is being funded in part by money collected from a carbon tax, a fee that “will be deposited into a central fund from which carbon offsets or renewable energy can be purchased, reported a post by TriplePundit.

The agreement is that Microsoft is covering the financing, construction and operation for the amount of megawatts required for the project to be possible; otherwise, it would have never have gotten off the ground, said RES CEO Susan Reilly.

The project is part of Microsoft’s portfolio of renewable energy in Texas (Keechi, which lies on Farm Road 832 one mile south of U.S. Highway 75, located roughly 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth) that will be funded in part by proceeds from Microsoft’s carbon fee. It is expected to bring new renewable energy on to the Texas electric grid, just like its solar PV cells that generate electricity.

Wind turbines are able to reduce long-term cost for power; they are capable of generating enough electricity to meet the energy demands and able to yield energy savings. In terms of wind production and integration into the grid that supplies power to Microsoft’s datacenter in San Antonio, a large utility-scale projects like Keechi is ideal. Turbines can be located outside urban areas, in a farm region, and generation from wind could be more economically efficient in such a geographical location, explained Bernard. 

Electricity accumulation originates from the wind and does not cause pollution as much as fossil fuels, coal and nuclear power do. This is said to be a significant milestone in Microsoft’s commitment to carbon neutrality; it is a solution well-suited as a base load for renewable source of energy and not involve any emissions of climate gases whatsoever.

The Microsoft wind power for Keechi is one of many carbon offset projects the company is involved in today (with others being in countries all over the world); it has demonstrated its environmental leadership in hope that other companies might follow its carbon neutrality path in driving forward more sustainable energy production and use of renewable energy that drives energy savings.

Visit the Microsoft Green Blog to learn more about some of the other carbon offset projects and know how committed the company is to be more environmentally friendly.

Edited by Ryan Sartor

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