Microsoft to power its data centres with wind energy from Kerry

9 Oct 2017

Image: XXLPhoto/Shutterstock

Microsoft will become one of the first multinational tech companies to support a new wind project in Ireland.

Software giant Microsoft has entered into a 15-year deal with GE to purchase 100pc of the wind energy from a windfarm in Kerry.

The power purchase agreement will see Microsoft buy the wind energy from GE’s new 37MW Tullahennel wind farm.

‘Wind is now one of the most competitive sources of electricity on the market today’

The move will support the growing demand for Microsoft cloud services from the company’s data centres in west Dublin.

As part of the deal, Microsoft also signed an agreement with Dublin-based energy trading company ElectroRoute, which will provide energy trading services to Microsoft.

Microsoft is also acquiring an Irish energy supply licence from GE. The supply licence will benefit both Microsoft and the Irish power grid, as it allows the company the flexibility to easily grow and invest in renewable energy in Ireland over time.

The move comes days after Microsoft revealed that it is creating 200 new jobs at its Inside Sales hub in Dublin.

Microsoft has invested over €1.5bn in its Irish operations since 1985 and is on track to employ 2,000 people here.

“Microsoft is proud to be deepening our long history of investment and partnership in Ireland with this agreement,” said Christian Belady, general manager for data centre strategy at Microsoft.

“Our commitment will help bring new, clean energy to the Irish grid, and contains innovative elements that have the potential to grow the capacity, reliability and capability of the grid. This will make it easier to incorporate new clean power sources like wind energy, and that is good for the environment, for Ireland and for our company,” Belady said.

Highs and lows

In addition to producing energy, the project will also produce valuable data on energy storage.

Each turbine will have an integrated battery, and Microsoft and GE will test how these batteries can be used to capture and store excess energy, then provide it back to the grid as needed.

This provides more predictable power to an increasingly green Irish grid by smoothing out peaks and valleys in wind production.

This will better enable intermittent clean power sources like wind energy to be added to the Irish grid. This will be the first deployment of battery integration into wind turbines to store energy in Europe.

The power purchase agreement builds on Microsoft’s strategic partnership with GE, announced last year.

The windfarm will integrate GE’s digital windfarm technology, which makes renewable energy outputs even more reliable. Digital models, built on the Predix platform, ensure energy generation supplied can meet demand forecasted and reduce intermittency concerns.

“This partnership with Microsoft expands GE’s considerable presence and investment in Ireland, where we already employ over 1,500 people and in particular in the renewable energy sector,” said Andres Isaza, chief commercial officer of GE Renewable Energy.

“Wind is now one of the most competitive sources of electricity on the market today, and we’re excited about the capability to use data generated from these wind turbines, using the Predix platform, to maximise the output and value of this project.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years