It is hardly a coincidence that renewable power and digital technology have come of age at the same time. Both thrive on innovations that help feed the other’s success.
Plenty of media stories cover companies, such as Google, that have gone from tech giant to renewable developer. As data centers become ubiquitous, the convergence of these two industries will continue, and now, Microsoft has taken the plunge, in an innovative, if not entirely odor-free approach.
Danbury, Conn.-based fuel cell developer, FuelCell Energy Inc. announced in November that it will partner with the software titan on a demonstration project in Wyoming. The project will feature a stationary fuel cell power plant that will support a Microsoft data center research project.
The power plant will use renewable biogas generated by a wastewater treatment facility as the fuel source to generate power for Microsoft’s Data Plant project in the city of Cheyenne. It will be a test project designed to evaluate the effectiveness of using fuel cell plants powered by on-site biogas for future data centers.
Microsoft announced in May 2012 that it had made a commitment to become carbon-neutral beginning in 2013. Reliable on-site power generation could be a key element of achieving that goal. The need to power data centers is a growing concern for companies such as Microsoft as the demand for cloud services expands. Microsoft claims its data centers support more than 1 billion customers and 20 million businesses worldwide.
The fuel cell plant will provide 200 kilowatts of power for the data center. It will be installed at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility and is due for completion by spring 2013.