Microsoft buys the output of 110-MW wind project in Texas

Microsoft said Nov. 4 that there’s going to be 110 MW more clean, renewable energy flowing into the grid by the end of 2015, generated by 55 brand-new wind turbines that will make up the Keechi Wind Farm.

Microsoft said it has committed to a 20-year power purchase agreement with RES Americas to buy 100% of the electricity generated from the soon-to-be-built Keechi Wind Farm. It is Microsoft’s latest investment in renewable energy and is just one of several innovative projects and approaches the company has pursued in the past few years.

“We have a long standing ambition to move in the direction of sourcing more clean energy as a company, so over the last few years we’ve increasingly purchased something called RECs – renewable energy credits (more than 2.3 billion kWh globally) – and so this is an opportunity to go to the next stage and invest directly in green energy,” said Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist.

With projects focusing on increasing energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon-offset projects funded in part by an internal carbon fee, Microsoft said it has become an example to others to be pro-active when it comes to clean energy use and investment.

“When influential companies such as Microsoft sign up to buy wind power, it sends a strong signal on the importance of taking meaningful action on sustainability,” says Susan Reilly, president and CEO of RES Americas and chair-elect of the board of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “By signing a contract to buy power from the Keechi Wind project, Microsoft is making the financing, construction, and operation of this 110 megawatt project possible. To be clear: it would not have happened otherwise. The Texas electrical grid is like a pool, and Microsoft is adding clean, green wind power to that pool.”

In an area 70 miles northwest of Ft. Worth, construction begins in December to build the Keechi Wind project. Texas has more installed wind capacity than any other U.S. state, with a total of 12.2 GW, Microsoft noted.

“All of the electricity we consume is from the power grid, through local utilities, which includes a mix generation resources including hydro, natural gas and wind,” said Brian Janous, director of energy strategy at Microsoft’s Global Foundation Services. “This project gives us a stake in putting more renewable power in the grid. We’re not having this power delivered directly to us. We’re going to continue to consume power as we always have for our buildings and datacenters – but we’re affecting the mix of generation, adding 110 MW of green power that wouldn’t have been there otherwise and displacing carbon fuels.”

This past year Microsoft began building a pilot datacenter in Cheyenne, Wyo., that will run completely independent of the grid with its energy generated from biogas, a byproduct of a nearby water treatment plant. Another datacenter in Dublin, Ireland, has implemented a thermodynamic cooling process that happens without loss or gain of heat, which reduces energy costs per megawatt by up to 30%.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.