As data centers grow in size, their owners have become acutely aware of the cost both in dollars and carbon emissions. Microsoft and other large data center providers have placed a lot of their monstrous facilities in the Pacific Northwest because they could get plenty of cheap, clean hydroelectric power that way.
But they can’t place every data center in the Pacific Northwest. The more hops you create for people around the country and the world, the more latency you get. So it helps to place data centers in different locations.
There's not much for hydroelectric in Texas, but there's plenty of wind. So Microsoft is teaming up with a Texas wind farm, committing to a 20-year clean energy purchase contract. The electricity from this project will be sent to the local grid that serves Microsoft’s San Antonio data center. The wind farm itself, however, will be some distance away: it will be some 70 miles northwest of Ft. Worth, Texas, near the town of Jacksboro.
The farm is known as the Keechi project, by RES Americas, and will begin construction early in 2014. When it is completed in 2015, the farm will put out 110 megawatts of power. The Keechi wind farm will bring additional wind power capacity into the Texas electricity supply chain.
Every major firm has its own plan to be carbon-neutral, and Microsoft's has been to achieve net zero emissions for its data centers, software development labs, offices, and employee business air travel in over 100 countries around the world. It's working on this through a variety of strategies, like an internal carbon fee, purchasing renewable energy, and improving data collection and reporting.