Chicago Data Center Benefits From Sustainable Wind Power For Microsoft

In July, Microsoft announced it had entered a 20-year agreement with the Pilot Hill Wind Project in Illinois to buy 175 MW of energy for their Chicago data center.

The purchase is Microsoft’s largest investment in wind energy so far, and will generate enough power to supply 70,000 Illinois homes. The partnership is mutually beneficial, as it will give Pilot Hill a steady revenue stream while allowing Microsoft to reduce its carbon footprint. The deal adds additional energy to the 110 MW Microsoft already purchased from the Keechi Wind Farm in Texas last year.

“Microsoft is focused on transforming the energy supply chain for cloud services from the power plant to the chip,” wrote Brian Janous, Microsoft’s director of energy strategy, in a blog post. “Commitments like Pilot Hill ensure a cleaner grid to supply energy to our data centers.”

The company’s use of wind power is not purely altruistic, however. Utilizing sustainable alternative energy sources allows Microsoft to reduce costs over time, which can eventually boost margins. Employing techniques for data center sustainability also helps the company have a greener image which can help its reputation with consumers. Microsoft’s wind purchase is only the latest in a recent string of alternative energy investments from major cloud providers. Google recently signed seven contracts to purchase more than 1000 MW of power from wind farms in Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Sweden.

Pressure from Greenpeace to decrease the use of coal to power data centers has spurred a move to alternative energy sources from tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. The environmental organization recently gave Microsoft a D grade for clean energy use.