Microsoft pledges to develop ‘greener’ data centres

Tech giant Microsoft wants to combat the growth and electricity consumption of its data centres, by adding more clean sources to its energy mix in an attempt to reach a 60% renewables target "early in the next decade".

Despite using 100% renewable energy to power its US operations since 2014, Microsoft has unveiled a new pledge to source more direct renewable sources for its various datacentres, located across Asia, Western Europe and the UK.

“When it comes to sustainability, we’ve made important progress as a company since the start of this decade, but even more important work lies ahead,” Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith said.

“Across the tech sector we need to recognise that data centres will rank by the middle of the next decade among the large users of electrical power on the planet. We need to keep working on a sustained basis to build and operate greener data centres that will serve the world well.

“For Microsoft, this means moving beyond data centres that are already 100% carbon neutral to also having those data centres rely on a larger percentage of wind, solar and hydropower electricity over time.”

Smith revealed that around 44% of electricity consumed by Microsoft data centres is sourced from renewables. In order to promote the “greener” data centres, Microsoft will strive to increase this figure to 50% by 2018 before targeting 60% “early in the next decade”.

As part of the company’s RE100 pledge, Microsoft has reduced carbon emissions on its main campus in Washington by 9.5m metric tonnes. The tech giant has purchased 14bn kilowatt hours of “green” energy which has reduced energy consumption on campus by 10% as a result.

In order to promote smarter buildings, Microsoft recently united with Facebook to front a clean energy revolution that has seen more than 60 companies pledge to develop 60GW of renewable energy by 2025, in an attempt to transform US electricity systems.

Better data

Microsoft’s pledge is encouraging news for the technology sector, but the company is still playing catch-up compared to other tech giants.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced plans for a new data centre to be built in Ireland which will run on 100% renewable energy using the country’s ‘robust’ wind resources.

Apple has also introduced a $1.7bn plan to build two giant data centres in Europe – one in County Galway Ireland and one in central Denmark – both powered by 100% renewable energy.

US financial services firm Bloomberg looks set to save around $2m, after introducing a 2.9MW solar plant to power 5% of its main New York data centre.

Matt Mace

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