Microsoft bolsters green cloud credentials with Data Plant initiative

Datacentre facility will run off grid, using methane biogas to produce energy

Microsoft is developing a green datacentre that will run on energy produced from biogas, which is a by-product of sewage treatment.

The pilot project will be located at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the software giant claims it will be the first carbon neutral facility of its kind.

Sean James, senior research programme manager at the data centre advanced development division of Microsoft said the project, known as Data Plant, is part of the vendor’s continuing mission to build an environmentally sustainable cloud infrastructure that meets the demands of its clients.

“We have crucial questions to address as a global community. Where will we get our future energy? How will we eliminate our increasing quantity of waste? How do we ensure abundant access to clean water for all? To help address these challenges, Microsoft is investing approximately $5.5 million in R&D on this pilot project for developing sustainable datacentres,” explained James.

Greenpeace, who in October staged a protest against Microsoft’s use of ‘dirty’ energy to power its datacentres, welcomed the news, but said more can be done.

Gary Cook, senior IT analyst at Greenpeace, told Cloud Pro: “Microsoft deserves praise for researching how it can feed the growing electricity demand of the cloud with scalable clean energy. At the same time, Microsoft is not applying the same innovation to its current data centre fleet, which is powered by coal.

“There are off-the-shelf technologies like wind energy available now that Microsoft is not pursuing to power its cloud, unlike competitors like Google,” he added.

Francine Bennet, chief executive of green cloud specialists Mastodon C, also welcomed the move and encouraged Microsoft to roll the infrastructure out more widely.

"I'm impressed to see Microsoft leading in this way, and we'd love to see this infrastructure being ... offered as a market-leading green infrastructure-as-a-service for Azure," she told Cloud Pro.

The company has not indicated when the Data Plant will come into commission. More details of the technical aspects of its biogas use can be found via James’ blog post.

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