Another technology icon has decided to purchase wind energy directly from the source. Microsoft Corp. this week announced that it has signed a power purchase agreement for all of the energy coming from RES Americas’ Keechi Wind facility, a 110-megawatt (MW) project expected to be completed in 2015. Construction is set to begin on the project early next year.
Microsoft, which in the past has purchased renewable energy credits to offset its emissions, was quick to point out that its wind purchase will directly result in the addition of wind to the grid. States Microsoft’s Robert Bernard on the company blog announcing the purchase, “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.”
The announcement is directly connected to the company’s commitment, announced in 2012, to become carbon neutral. To achieve that goal, Microsoft established an internal carbon fee designed to steer it away from carbon-emitting energy sources and toward clean-energy technologies like wind power. A natural byproduct of the fee: a pot of cash, with which the company can make renewable energy purchases such as the PPA announced this week. Microsoft said the energy purchase will be funded in part by the carbon-fee funds.
Microsoft, of course, is not the first tech giant to buy wind directly. During the last few years Google has steadily increased its wind power purchases and even made direct investments in projects. Google’s wind PPAs include those for
· 114 MW from NextEra’s Story County II facility in Iowa,
· 100.8 MW from NextEra’s Minco II facility in Oklahoma, and
· 239.2 MW from Chermac Energy’s Happy Hereford project.
In addition, the company has a PPA for 72 MW of output from a wind farm under construction in northern Sweden. Moreover, Google has made direct investments–both as a business decision as well as because it wants to be powered by clean energy–in several wind facilities, such as the Spinning Spur Wind Farm in West Texas and Iowa’s Rippey Wind Farm.
Thus, Google has set quite a pace for other companies to keep up with. But look for more to come from Microsoft, which must take action to be carbon neutral. “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,” Mr. Bernard states in his blog post.
Photo credit: David K. Clarke