Envirotec

Biogas-powered data centre testbed

MICROSOFT and the University of Wyoming (UW) have opened a ‘green’ data centre, powered by the biogas generated from a nearby wastewater treatment plant, and employing hydrogen fuell cell technology.
A cable-cutting ceremony for the Cheyenne Biogas Power Plant took place on 6 November. The data centre is powered by a fuel cell that generates electricity by electro-chemically converting biogas emitted from the treatment plant (see box, opposite).
The system will generate around 300kW, the data centre server requirements accounting for 200kW of this. The power source will also support the university in running high-performance computing applications, while also acting as a proof of concept for a zero-emission data centre that will allow Microsoft to cut company costs and reduce CO2 emissions by using renewable energy. Microsoft hopes the small-scale energy project model can eventually be used at the company’s other data centres.
The state contributed $1.5 million of the $7.6 million cost of the project, arguably expensive for a power system that will supply only 300kW. Quoted by CNBC, Sean James of Microsoft’s Datacenter Advanced Development team, highlighted the value of making progress towards the prize of clean energy generation using closed-loop systems.
Data centres are an appropriate target for such pioneering efforts because their energy requirements are growing rapidly. In 2000, US data centres used less than 0.12 percent of the country’s energy while by 2010, that figure had grown to about 2 percent.

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