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Last year we announced that Microsoft would make a commitment to become carbon neutral. The cornerstone of that commitment was an internal carbon fee that’s designed to increase the company’s costs for using carbon-based forms of energy. An intended result? Buying more renewable energy and becoming more energy efficient.
Today, we are pleased to announce that we are moving forward with purchasing renewable energy directly. We have signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind energy in Texas that will be funded in part by proceeds from Microsoft’s carbon fee.
For Microsoft, signing a long-term PPA for wind energy is a significant milestone in our commitment to carbon neutrality. It also underscores how the carbon fee is changing the way Microsoft does business globally. By placing a dollar value on a metric ton of carbon, Microsoft is building environmental sustainability into our long term business planning and creating a blueprint for more purchases of renewable energy like this one.
The agreement with RES Americas will see Microsoft purchase all of the energy from Keechi Wind project, a 110 MW wind facility 70 miles northwest of Ft. Worth, Texas, near the town of Jacksboro. The wind farm is on the same electric grid that powers our datacenter in San Antonio.
Keechi Wind will begin construction early 2014 and will begin delivering green power the following year. The wind farm will include 55 wind turbines which will be manufactured by Vestas, largely in Colorado.
Because this is a new project, the energy generated there is “additional,” which means that our purchase is bringing new renewable energy onto the Texas electric grid. And while Texas has a very robust wind energy industry, the majority of its energy generation still comes from coal and natural gas. By purchasing wind, we will reduce the overall amount of emissions associated with operating Microsoft facilities in this region and hopefully spur additional investment in renewable energy in Texas.
While this is our first long-term PPA, Microsoft’s focus on carbon and clean energy is not new. For example, our Silicon Valley campus installed a solar power system in 2004 that offsets as much as 15 percent of our energy needs. This year the Environmental Protection Agency recognized Microsoft as the second largest purchaser of green power in the U.S., and we doubled our purchase of renewable energy from 1.1 billion kWh to 2.3 billion kWh.
Microsoft’s commitment to green power is now included in our Global Public Policy Agenda, and extends to our datacenters and our offices. Our datacenter in San Antonio, Texas uses recycled waste water for cooling and our Quincy, Washington facility uses hydropower as its primary source of energy, and last November Microsoft announced its plans to build a biogas-powered proof-of-concept datacenter in Wyoming. This will be the first zero carbon datacenter that will be completely independent of the grid.
But even with this degree of investment in renewable energy and efficiency, we recognize that we still have work to do. In addition to purchasing wind energy in Texas, we will continue pursuing energy efficiency projects – from smarter buildings on our Redmond campus to more efficient datacenters around the world. The Keechi Wind project power purchase agreement may be one of our largest milestones since implementing our carbon fee, but it will certainly not be our last.
Check out our new infographic that describes how Microsoft is buying green energy.
Robert, can you explain how Microsoft determined that this wind power is "additional"? Is it self-certifying? Or Green-E?
PS. I ask b/c in general there's very little proof that "additionality" is really met, so buying RECs may often just add a bit of revenue for projects that would already be built. This is good for the wind project owner but it probably doesn't do anything for the wind market more generally. It's far better to pursue direct access, where possible, or to actually invest in the project as an owner/financier. The REC model is often tantamount to greenwashing.
Congratulations! This is a revolutionary move. Buying more renewable resource and becoming more energy efficient.
I believe in the future of renewable energy. Our house has solar panels to save money on our bills (which are extremely high). I suggest anyone with a bit of property, a business or a roof to see if you can put solar, it's really worth it. Quick tip: we used www.mysolarinstaller.com to get tailored quotes for our home. They got us the top solar installers in our area to send free quotes...it took us less than a minute with their process and we got to compare apples with apples.