Microsoft to pilot data centre powered by biogas

23 Nov 2012

Microsoft is teaming up with US firm FuelCell Energy to pilot a data centre research project in Wyoming that will see biogas generated by a wastewater treatment plant being used to power up a data centre that will be independent of the grid.

With IT giants trying to find cleaner ways of powering up their energy-hungry data centres – think Google’s new air-cooled data centre in Dublin or Apple’s solar farm around its new data centre in Maiden, North Carolina – Microsoft is taking it one step further, looking to the potential of the process of anaerobic digestion from sewage to create biogas and power its data centres of the future.

Microsoft is planning to invest around US$5.5m in the R&D project, which will be located in the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

During the trial, one of FuelCell Energy’s fuel cell power plants will be installed at the wastewater plant in Cheyenne in early 2013. The system will provide 200 kilowatts of power to a modular Microsoft data centre, which will house servers to recreate a data centre environment.

In a blog post, Microsoft pointed to the potential of capturing and reusing biogas directly from wastewater treatment plants, farms and fuel refineries to power its data centres.

“In general, biogas fuel sources are typically uneconomical to recover and convert to grid energy and are usually flared off. By capturing and reusing biogas on-premise with our data centres, we will be able to significantly reduce their carbon emissions while producing beneficial uses at the same time,” said Sean James, a senior research programme manager for data centre development at Microsoft, in the blog post.

Data centre image via Shutterstock

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic