Microsoft to use Texas wind power to fuel data centers

HOUSTON — Microsoft has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy Texas wind energy from RES Americas, as it joins Intel and Google in the technology race for carbon neutrality.

The Washington state-based software giant plans to buy all of the energy produced by the Keechi Wind project, a 110-megawatt wind facility 70 miles northwest of Ft. Worth. The deal’s price tag was not disclosed.

The wind farm shares the grid with Microsoft’s data center in San Antonio, and is part of its strategy to reduce the carbon footprint of its data centers.

“By placing a dollar value on a metric ton of carbon, Microsoft is building environmental sustainability in our long term business planning and creating a blueprint for more purchases of renewable energy like this one,” the company wrote on its Microsoft Green Blog on Monday morning.

Keechi Wind will begin construction of the 55-turbine wind farm in early 2014 and expects to be operating the following year.

Renewable power: Google becoming big energy player

Microsoft buys about 2 billion kilowatts of green power annually, enough to cover about 80 percent of its electricity needs. Microsoft is the second largest purchaser of domestic green energy among companies participating in an Environmental Protection Agency program. This program, EPA’s Green Power Partnership, helps participating companies identify sources of renewable energy and highlights their usage through public lists. It follows Intel, which uses renewable energy for all of its electricity needs, about 3.1 billion kilowatt-hours per year.

Texas wind farms are benefiting from the greening of the tech companies. In September, Google announced a deal with Chermac Energy Corp. for a 240-megawatt wind farm near Amarillo, Texas. It was the tech giant’s second Texas wind farm investment this year, as it moves closer to its goal of using renewable energy to power all of its data centers.

Microsoft also installed a solar power system in 2014 for its Silicon Valley facilities that supplies up to 15 percent of the campus’ energy needs.

The company also plans to build a biogas-powered data center in Wyoming that will run independently off the grid, using waste from a neighboring water treatment plant in Cheyenne to fuel its data center.