Texas school partners with Microsoft for energy efficiency research


By Valentino Lucio
San Antonio Express-News 

SAN ANTONIO — Microsoft Corp. and the University of Texas at San Antonio entered into a three-year partnership to research and develop sustainable-energy technologies that benefit data centers.

Research will focus on technologies that make data centers more energy efficient and less costly to operate.

On top of the R&D agreement, announced Wednesday at UTSA’s main campus, Microsoft made a one-time gift to the university of $1 million, which will go toward research and technology programs.

Established in 2010, the UTSA’s Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute will be responsible for most of the research.

“One of the goals from the very outset was to become a partner of choice with centers of innovation and creativity around the country and across the globe,” said Les Shephard, the institute’s director. “We believe that through your affiliations, so you go. To be a partner with the very best in the world, you’re generally seen as one of the best in the world.”

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The research institute has about 20 students involved now, but Shephard expects the partnership to help grow numbers.

The research agreement marks another major investment the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant has made in San Antonio.

Microsoft already occupies a 427,000-square-foot data center in the Westover Hills area. And work is underway to build another 256,000-square-foot, $250 million data center next door to that facility.

Microsoft employs about 75 people at its existing data center. The company expects to hire another 20 employees for the new one, which will open next year.

“I see the whole city as a lab, to be able to really pilot these concepts that we’re all interested in,” said Brian Janous, director of energy strategy at Microsoft.

Microsoft, he added, looks to integrate innovative technologies that UTSA students develop into future data centers.

To entice data-center operators, sizeable incentives are on the table at the state level. Texas law provides sales tax-exemption to companies that build new data centers of at least 100,000 square feet and make a capital investment of $200 million or more over five years.

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And in November, City Council approved an economic development deal where Microsoft agreed to invest $250 million in the San Antonio area between 2016 and 2021. Microsoft also is required to create 20 jobs that pay at least $53,000.

The tech giant proposed the $1 million gift to UTSA as part of the incentive deal.

For its part, Microsoft gets a property tax reimbursement up to 63 percent over a 15-year period.

Express-News archives contributed to this report.

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