Microsoft's Data Centers in Ireland Are Getting an Influx of Wind Power

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CC BY-SA 2.0. Harrygep

Microsoft is amping up its renewable energy portfolio by signing a power purchase agreement for 100 percent of GE's Tullahennel wind farm in Ireland. The energy from the 37-MW wind farm located in County Kerry will go towards powering Microsoft's data centers in the country which support its growing cloud services.

Microsoft has been committing more resources to greening its data centers in recent years, going beyond just procuring renewable energy sources to trying to push new sustainable technologies and ideas forward. The company has built an experimental data center in Wyoming that operates off the grid and is powered fully by biogas and they've sunk a small data center in the ocean to prove the concept of underwater data centers that can be both cooled and powered by the sea.

This latest power purchase in Ireland is also about more than just getting clean power. The turbines in the Tullahennel wind farm all have integrated batteries for energy storage. Microsoft is working with GE to test how this energy storage on the spot can work for wind farms and the connected grid. This is the first time battery-integrated turbines are being used in Europe and the resulting data will be important for the improvement and application of this technology going forward.

The batteries will allow the wind farm to provide more predictable and consistent power, avoiding the peaks and valleys that often occur with wind energy generation. This smoother energy output is important for data centers that need a steady and reliable energy supply. If the energy storage results in excess energy that the data centers don't need, it can be fed back to the Irish grid.

This latest purchase puts Microsoft's total global renewable energy energy procurements at almost 600 MW. The company set green energy goals last year that include having 50 percent of the power they purchase come from renewable sources by 2018 with a steady rise in that percentage over the next decade.