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Microsoft to buy Texas wind energy

Microsoft is putting its own spin to the sustainability issue, at least as it relates to becoming a green partner in an emerging world concerned about adversely affecting the environment.

For many Americans, as our fathers might have said at least once during our years of childhood or especially during our adolescent years, "This is not the same world in which I grew up."

For many of us, gone are the days of 12-cent comic books, 35-cent burgers and bottles of pop that sold for a dime--plus deposit. Movie matinees are no longer a buck and gasoline sells for considerably more than the 29 cents, 60 cents or even the dollar a gallon we grew up with.

We've made it past Orwell's 1984, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick's 2001, and many of us still marvel as we watch our GPS-guided tractors mimic the efficiency of Asimov's great robots as they toil through the soil like an unstoppable army of George Lucas' clone army, or more like his mechanical walkers that took the Old Republic wars to that distant galaxy far, far away.

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Many of us have even warmed up to the idea of climate change and now realize the world must become a more sustainable environment if our grandchildren are to survive it.

Perhaps it is because of this progress, both personal growth and society's universal awakening to the potential of technological change and the impact it will have on our futures, that large corporations are starting to climb onboard the rising wave of sustainable living.

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Leading the way, not surprisingly, are a number of companies that rely on high technology to make their billions. Six major internet companies, for example, have committed to 100 percent renewable power for their energy hungry data centers. Apple, Facebook, Google, Box and Salesforce have all agreed to be a part of what they hope will be growing green internet companies.

But high tech giant Microsoft is putting its own spin to the sustainability issue, at least as it relates to becoming a green partner in an emerging world concerned about adversely affecting the environment. The company's latest sustainable energy strategy officially gets underway this week with groundbreaking construction of a new wind farm in Texas.

Microsoft's Robert Bernard, the company's chief environmental strategist, says last year Microsoft introduced an internal carbon fee designed to increase the company’s costs for using carbon-based forms of energy. He says the corporate giant reasoned that buying more renewable energy and becoming more energy efficient would be a major step in the right direction toward a green environment.

Reducing the carbon footprint

In what Bernhard would term a step toward carbon footprint reduction, Microsoft Corp. has entered into a 20-year contract to buy power from a new wind farm in Texas, the first time the company has ever purchased electricity directly from a specific source.

The deal involves a new wind energy site being built by RES Americas, under construction at a location just north of Fort Worth. Under terms of the deal announced by the company recently, Microsoft will buy all the energy produced by the large 55 wind turbines planned for the Keechi Wind Project. Microsoft is agreeing to buy all 430,000 megawatt hours of energy the wind farm produces. That's enough energy to power up to 45,000 homes, or about 5 percent to 10 percent of the company's total electricity consumption, which the company says will go a long way in helping them to reduce its carbon footprint.

Microsoft's large San Antonio Data Center would directly benefit from the energy bought from the Keechi Wind Project though it will not supply all the Center's power requirements. Company reps say the Keechi Project, once up and running, will deliver electricity to the same Texas Grid that provides power to San Antonio and the Data Center.

The company says by ensuring that renewable energy powers more of the grid, it can help to reduce carbon emissions created by coal and gas-fired electrical plants.

Microsoft is financing the purchase through internal funds collected as part of a "carbon fee" project. The company has been charging its departments for every ton of carbon produced, an amount that could generate as much $100 million a year that can be re-invested into green energy projects.

Texas is the nation's largest producer of wind energy. According to Microsoft's Brian Janous, Microsoft's overall director of energy strategy, the company looked at several other states and projects, but chose Texas in part because of a $6.8 billion transmission line project that brings West Texas-generated wind to more power-hungry parts of the state.

It's not the first company project designed to reduce its carbon footprint and Janous says it won't be the last. But any contribution toward sustainable energy is a step in the right direction and he hopes other industries, including agriculture, will follow the lead in building a better world.


Also of interest:

Energy and agriculture work with states to conserve lesser prairie-chicken…

Home grown energy offers savings, sustainability

Farm bill needs education updates

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