A couple of years ago, Microsoft revealed its plans to build a data center powered by biogas in Wyoming and now that plan has become a reality. The small data center is connected to the Supercomputing Center of the University of Wyoming and is not connected to the local power grid at all; it's completely autonomous and powered by renewable energy.
The data center holds 200 servers and is powered by methane that comes from biogas harvested from an on-site sewage treatment plant's digestion tanks. A 300-kilowatt fuel cell converts the gas into electricity through an electrochemical process. The data center uses about 100 kW of that energy while the sewage treatment plant uses the other 150 kW to off-set its energy needs.
This data center is acting as a pilot program to prove that data centers can run fully off renewable energy sources. What makes this project work is that it's using energy management software to control all the aspects of the power supply. Developed by Siemens, the software monitors the power supply to ensure that there are no dips, peaks or interruptions in the power that could lead to data losses.
The system keeps track of the supply of biogas, the electricity produced and keeps an eye on fuel cell operation. The system gives warnings in advance of any problems that may occur like an excess of demand. The data center and energy management system are working well and the plan is to expand it beyond a pilot installation to a large scale one.