Microsoft Boots Up Largest Wind Power Deal Yet

World | Wind Energy

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Microsoft has become the latest in a string of IT giants to announce major renewable energy deals, confirming it has inked two agreements to source 237MW of wind power from US wind farms.

The software powerhouse said the two deals mean it has now invested in wind energy projects boasting more than 500MW of capacity, as it seeks to slash the carbon footprint of its data centres.

“Microsoft is committed to building a responsible cloud, and these agreements represent progress toward our goal of improving the energy mix at our data centres,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, in a statement. “Our commitment extends beyond greening our own operations because these projects help create a greener, more reliable grid in the communities in which we operate.”

The larger of the two deals has seen Microsoft sign a contract with Allianz Risk Transfer (ART) to fix long-term energy costs and purchase ‘environmental attributes’ connected to the the new 178MW Bloom Wind project in Kansas.

The two companies said the project made use of an innovative new financial structure designed to offset high upfront costs associated with the development of large-scale wind projects.

“It is important for investors in renewable energy projects to secure long-term, stable revenues, and our structure does just that,” said Karsten Berlage, managing director of ART. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Microsoft on this groundbreaking project.”

Separately, Microsoft inked a deal with Black Hills Corp. to purchase 59MW of renewable energy certificates from the Happy Jack and Silver Sage wind projects, which are adjacent to Microsoft’s Cheyenne, Wyoming, data centre.
The company said the two wind farms would match the power use of the data centre.

“This collaboration provided them the opportunity to utilise significantly more renewable energy while still ensuring the reliability they’ve come to expect through our energy infrastructure and generation resources,” said David R. Emery, chairman and CEO of Black Hills Corp. “We are proud to be a strong supporter and partner in their mission to power their data centres with increased renewable energy resources, and look forward to our continued collaboration in the years ahead.”

Significantly, the deal includes a new tariff that allows the utility to make use of the data centre’s backup generators, eliminating the need for Black Hills Energy to construct a new power plant.

“We are constantly looking for new ways to approach energy challenges and avenues of engagement with our utility partners,” said Christian Belady, general manager of cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture at Microsoft. “The team worked closely with ART to come up with a completely new model to enable faster adoption of renewables. Likewise, the tight engagement with Black Hills created the opportunity for Microsoft’s data centre to become an asset for the local grid, maintaining reliability and reducing costs for ratepayers. This kind of deep collaboration with utilities has great potential to accelerate the pace of clean energy, benefiting all customers – not just Microsoft.”

The two new deals follow the Microsoft’s existing investments in the 175MW Pilot Hill wind project in Illinois and the 110MW Keechi wind farm in Texas. The company also inked an agreement earlier this year to deliver 20MW of solar power capacity in Virginia.