Levon Barkhordarian | |

Rows of processors in data center

Microsoft has made bold moves to achieve their goal of having 50 percent of their power usage come from renewable, sources by 2018. Microsoft has steadily begun to increase their renewable energy portfolio by finalising a purchase agreement for 100 percent of General Electric’s Tullahennel wind farm in County Kerry, Ireland.The agreement states that Microsoft will buy all 37 megawatts of electricity produced by the Tullahennel wind farm for the next 15 years. This energy will go towards powering Microsoft’s Irish data centres which support its expanding cloud services.  ·      This latest purchase puts Microsoft`s total global renewable energy procurements at almost 600 MW.

In recent years Microsoft has pledged ever more resources into the energy sustainability and Off-Grid capabilities of its data centres, moving beyond the purchase of renewable energy sources and into the realm of experimental Off-Grid technology.

The company has built a new data centre in Wyoming which operates Off-Grid and is powered solely by biogas. As well as alternative forms of power they are also exploring ways of cooling their data centres as huge amounts of energy are wasted on the cooling systems which keep their computers functioning.

To tackle this issue, they have tested a small data centre submerged underwater, which can be both cooled and powered by ocean water. The experiment acted as a proof of concept however Off-Grid underwater data centre could be implemented on a larger scale in the near future.

It Isn’t entirely certain how Microsoft power their underwater data centres using water however it may be wave power or a system of thermoelectric generators which work by converting temperature differences directly into electrical energy. The presence of a temperature gradient in a conducting material results in heat flow. This results in the diffusion of charge carriers. The flow of charge carriers between the hot and cold regions and in turn creates a voltage difference.

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  • In 2014, data centers were responsible for 2 percent of all electricity consumed in the US, according to the recent government study.

 

 

  • Combined US data centers were responsible for the consumption of 626 billion liters of water. This Is expected to rise to 660 billion liters by 2020.

 

 

Microsoft has its sights set on more than just the green energy generated from the Tullahennel wind turbines but also sees the recent acquisition as a joint research project with General Electric, looking into the potential of turbines with integrated batteries for energy storage. This marks the first-time battery integrated wind farms have been used in Europe and so the data gathered will no doubt have importance for the improvement and application of wind turbine technology in years to come.

 

It is thought the reason Microsoft is so interested in turbine battery technology is that currently, wind farms without batteries provide inconsistent and irregular bursts of electricity, which is undesirable for data centres as they need a smooth consistent source of energy to operate effectively. It is hoped that battery technology in turbines could store energy and release it in a predictable and reliable format, something which is essential for Microsoft’s data cloud ambitions.

 

The people of Ireland are also set to benefit from this technology because if this energy storage technology results in a surplus of energy it can be fed back into the Irish grid, making this move mutually beneficial for both Microsoft, General Electric and the Irish people.

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For more about server farms and what keeps them cool go to this link – https://www.cloudyn.com/blog/10-facts-didnt-know-server-farms/

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