Microsoft pushes harder for clean-energy cloud

Image: Wind turbines

Dedicated wind farms are an increasingly important source of energy for data centers.

REDMOND, Wash. – Microsoft is kicking up its targets for environmentally sustainable cloud computing by pledging that half of the electricity to power its data centers will come from renewable sources by 2018.

The bar will be raised to 60 percent for the early 2020s. “And then we’ll just keep on getting better from there,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, told energy executives today at a gathering of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, or REBA.

Smith’s announcement provided a timely kickoff for this week’s REBA Summit on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. More than 300 representatives of companies that produce, sell and buy electrical power are meeting to trade information, recap successes and failures, and make deals.

The stakes are high, especially due to the rapid rise of cloud computing. Analysts say the data centers that provide the infrastructure for the cloud could consume almost 50 gigawatts of power this year. By 2030, communication technology could account for as much as 51 percent of global electricity usage – and be responsible for as much as 23 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

Two of the Seattle area’s top tech firms, Microsoft and Amazon, are also two of the world’s top companies in cloud computing. Facebook and Google are close behind.

“Our data centers, for each company, consume as much electrical power as a small state,” Smith said at the summit. “And there is going to come a time in the future, some decades ahead, when each of these companies will consume as much electrical power as a medium-sized nation.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

About Alan Boyle

Award-winning science writer, creator of Cosmic Log, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.
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