In just two years, Microsoft was able to contract for 285 MW of renewable power from two off-site wind energy projects, according to a post on the Rocky Mountain Institute blog RMI Outlet. While off-site renewable energy transactions often require one to two years to complete, Microsoft completed its first transaction in six months, and its second in only six weeks.
After announcing a goal to become carbon neutral beginning in 2013, Microsoft’s sustainability department formed a dedicated centralized energy team consisting of individuals with energy-industry experience. This data center energy team was the principal champion of the renewable energy contracts. In addition to receiving explicit support from Microsoft senior executives, the team worked closely with the sustainability group throughout the procurement process to communicate and build internal support for its proposals. To further expedite the transactions, the team also enlisted the help of external partners.
Understanding that it can cost twice the amount to power a data center over its lifetime than it costs to build the data center, the team pursued renewable energy contracts geared at reducing costs and limiting the company’s operational exposure to future energy price fluctuations, especially increases. By financing the wind farms via renewable power purchase agreements, Microsoft was able to balance the large, long-term demands of its data center infrastructure with a similarly large, long-term, fixed-cost supply.
The Business Renewables Center (BRC), an RMI-convened initiative and member-led platform, is collecting and documenting best practices to help its members procure renewable power more quickly and successfully.