Microsoft to buy power from new Illinois wind farm

Microsoft Corp. will buy wind power from a new Illinois wind farm for the next 20 years to offset its power needs, part of a plan by the technology company to become offset its carbon output.

The 175-megawatt wind farm is under construction 60 miles outside Chicago at the border of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties. It’s 96 percent owned by EDF Renewable Energy, a U.S. subsidiary of French utility Electricite de France SA.

Pilot Hill, slated to enter construction shortly and be finished in early 2015, will consist of a combination of General Electric and Vestas wind turbines.

The PPA is Microsoft’s second such deal in the past two years, following last year’s transaction when it agreed to purchase the output from the 110MW Keechi wind farm in Texas from owner RES Americas.

Pilot Hill is set 95km southwest of Chicago, and will generate more electricity than Microsoft’s Chicago data centre consumes.

“Microsoft is focused on transforming the energy supply chain for cloud services from the power plant to the chip,” says the company’s director of energy strategy, Brian Janous.

In procuring renewable electricity to power its energy-intensive operations, Microsoft is playing catch up to tech rival Google, which to date has signed five PPAs for wind power totaling 585MW of capacity.

The PPA with Microsoft provided the long-term revenue certainty needed to get the project off the ground, claims EDF Renewable Energy’s executive vice president of development Ryan Pfaff.

Pilot Hill will qualify for the federal renewable electricity Production Tax Credit.

EDF Renewable Energy is one of the largest renewable energy developers in North America, with 5.7GW of capacity.