Microsoft is going even greener, investing in solar energy to power its data centers
It was in 2016 when Microsoft decided to increase its use of renewable energy to power the datacenters and operations that support the company’s cloud business. The goal was to use 50% renewable energy by 2018, 60% by early 2020 and even more the years to come. Last March though, the technology firm signed the largest corporate solar agreement in the United States, a 315 (MW) solar project in Virginia, and together with other six agreements the company has made over the last two years, the 50% target is already surpassed!
The ‘golden’ deal
Microsoft agreed with sPower, a leading independent renewable energy power producer based in Salt Lake City, Utah, to buy most of the solar energy from its two new power plants in Virginia. Once operational, Pleinmont I and II will consist of more than 750,000 solar panels spread across more than 2,000 acres, producing approximately 715,000 MWh a year. Out of the total of 500 MW that will be installed (an addition that nearly doubles the solar capacity in the state of Virginia), Microsoft will buy 315 MW. This is Microsoft’s largest purchase of renewable energy to date, with the company having invested in 1.2 GW of renewable energy in total. sPower’s CEO Ryan Creamer commented that Microsoft’s participation was a ‘game-changer’ that helped the project to “move forward and come to fruition at a time of regulatory uncertainty”.
Other renewable energy deals of the company include a 180MW wind project in the Netherlands, a 37MW wind project in Ireland, a 60MW solar rooftop in Singapore and other wind projects in Kansas, Wyoming, Illinois and Texas.
Large corporations committed to powering 100% of their operations with renewables
Apart from Microsoft, there are many other world-leading businesses that have made a commitment to 100% renewable electricity, with around 130 of them having signed the RE100. Google, Facebook, Apple, Autodesk and eBay from the digital economy sector are some of them. These companies are entering into Purchasing Power Agreements (PPAs) directly with electricity generators and between 2015 and 2016, the number of PPAs amongst RE100 signatories increased four-fold. These direct transactions remove significant roadblocks to financing and building new facilities. Mrs. Creamer explains how: “Often utilities are government owned and therefore influenced by forces on governments. This is shifting the decision about whether to build renewable or fossil fuel power plants into the hands of large buyers – companies like Microsoft.”
Source: World Economic Forum