Microsoft Buys Tons Of Wind Power, Complete With Back Up Generators

(REUTERS/David Gray)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Tech giant Microsoft announced Monday that it has signed a deal to power its American data centers with wind energy, despite the inherent unreliability of the technology.

The tech company announced two new contracts representing 237 megawatts of wind power generating capacity, backed up by several natural gas generators to compensate for the unreliability. Microsoft did not disclose the amount of money they spent purchasing the wind power or the natural gas backup.

“These agreements represent progress toward our goal of improving the energy mix at our data centers,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said in the company statement.

Microsoft isn’t the first tech company to purchase large amounts of wind power. Google made a similar purchase back in 2013, but didn’t end up actually using any of the energy because it wasn’t reliable enough to power their servers.

Experts believe that the ability of an electrical grid to absorb unreliable green energy becomes increasingly more difficult at scale.

For example, South Australia’s reliance on wind power makes blackouts more likely because the amount of electricity generated by a wind turbine is very intermittent and doesn’t coincide with the times of day when power is most needed. This poses an enormous safety challenge to grid operators and makes power grids more fragile.

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