Microsoft: Innovation in energy consistent with IT industry’s personality

IT companies cannot "sit on the side-lines and be a laggard" when it comes to tackling energy supply issues, particularly those associated with data centres, says Microsoft's Rob Bernard.

Speaking at the Open Compute Summit in California last week, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist Rob Bernard said that companies in the IT industry must incorporate energy supply issues into their core business and as innovators should drive progress.

Bernard said: “Being innovative in energy is consistent with the IT industry’s personality. It’s about pushing the envelope of innovation in multiple-dimensions all the time. So if a company self perceives that it’s innovative, how can you not be innovative in this [energy] space?

“How can a business in this industry sit on the side-lines and be a laggard in one core area of its supply chain. Energy is a huge component of our supply chain.

“I’m always amazed that businesses don’t first take stock of how energy is core to their supply chain and how they pursue other core supply chain initiatives at their company but don’t in the same way with energy,” added Bernard.

With the digital economy approaching a tenth of the world’s electricity use, IT companies across the world are looking at ways to incorporate renewable energy into their supply to feed energy hungry data centres.

Facebook’s data centre in Prinville Oregon, which opened in 2011, has seen the efficiencies in the designs of its owned data centres save enough energy to power 40,000 homes for a year, which has the equivalent carbon impact of taking 50,000 cars off the road for a year.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is purchasing energy from Keechi Wind project, a 110 MW wind facility in Texas, through a 20 year agreement.

Also increasing its consumption of renewable energy is Google, who has recently invested $75m in a second wind farm in Texas, which is expected to be operational by the end of 2014.

Leigh Stringer

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