Microsoft developing first zero carbon data center

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Microsoft has announced that its Cheyenne, Wyoming data center will be powered by a biogas-fed stationary fuel cell, marking its research and development of the first zero carbon data center.

Artist's rendering of the Microsoft facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Credit: Microsoft

Called the Data Plant, the center will recycle common waste bi-products to sustainably power cloud services. Using a biogas-fed stationary fuel cell from FuelCell Energy takes advantage of the unique ability to convert biogas into electricity on-site, where the gas originates -- unlike "directed" biogas operations, where the biogas must be heavily scrubbed before being injected into the natural gas pipeline -- to make Microsoft's biogas data center even cheaper and more energy efficient than other biogas deployments.

The power plant will utilize renewable biogas generated by a wastewater treatment facility as the fuel source to generate ultra-clean and carbon-neutral electricity to power Microsoft's Data Plant project.

"With the demand for renewable energy resources outstripping available power supplies today, Microsoft is researching new methods to help our operations become more efficient and environmentally sustainable," said Gregg McKnight, general manager of Data Center Advanced Development at Microsoft. "We're excited by the potential for using stationary fuel cells to capture and recycle natural byproducts like biogas. This project will study methods to provide an economical and reliable power supply for data centers that is also scalable and economical for use by other industries."

Excess power not used by the data center will be provided to the water reclamation facility to offset their electric costs. In the event of a grid outage, the data plant project and fuel cell plant will be configured to operate independently to provide continuous power.

The Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power Company, Western Research Institute, the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council, and Cheyenne LEADS, the economic development organization for Cheyenne and Laramie County, Wyoming, are all involved in the Microsoft project.

The project is still in the application phase and is on the docket December 6th for a final decision.

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