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Summary:

More Internet companies are embracing wind and solar to help power data centers. Microsoft is the latest for a huge data center in Chicago.

Google and Apple aren’t the only tech giants aggressively pursuing clean energy for their data centers. On Tuesday Microsoft announced that it has signed a deal to buy wind power from a wind farm outside of Chicago for a 20-year term. The wind farm will put energy into the same electric grid that their large data center in Chicago draws from.

It’s Microsoft’s largest clean power deal (not including hydro) to date, and the wind farm — called the Pilot Wind Project and now owned by EDF Renewable Energy — will be 175 MW when finished and providing power in 2015. Microsoft said they’ll buy 675,000 MWh of wind power from the farm, which is enough to power 70,000 Illinois homes. The farm will use turbines from both GE and Vestas.

Wind turbines, image courtesy of Chrishna, Flickr Creative Commons.

Wind turbines, image courtesy of Chrishna, Flickr Creative Commons.

Microsoft last year signed a similar agreement to buy power from a wind farm in Texas, which supplies power to Microsoft’s San Antonio datacenter. Microsoft has also invested in fuel cells for data centers, and uses hydro for its data center in Washington.

Microsoft’s clean power moves are a bit different than Google’s and Apple’s. Microsoft is largely focused around monitoring and reducing Microsoft’s overall carbon emissions and becoming carbon neutral, and it’s partly using a carbon fee (a fund created by Microsoft to match its carbon emissions) to pay for the wind power in Illinois.

In contrast, Apple is building some of the largest privately-owned solar and clean energy farms in the world around its data centers in Maiden, North Carolina, and Reno, Nevada. Apple is unique in that most Internet companies don’t want to build and own their own power. Google has made over a dozen clean power investments over the years, but is mostly looking to utility deals to supply its clean power.

Pilot Hill Wind Project
signing a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy in Illinois that will be funded in part by proceeds from Microsoft’s carbon fee. – See more at: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft-green/archive/2014/07/15/microsoft-announces-largest-wind-project-to-date.aspx#sthash.4k63cDzp.dpuf
signing a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy in Illinois that will be funded in part by proceeds from Microsoft’s carbon fee. – See more at: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft-green/archive/2014/07/15/microsoft-announces-largest-wind-project-to-date.aspx#sthash.4k63cDzp.dpuf