Powering Data Centers with Biogas

Microsoft will invest $5.5 million to attempt to harness biogas from a water reclamation facility to power a data center.

by / November 20, 2012

Microsoft is looking into a new way to power its data centers. Teaming up with the city of Cheyenne, Wyo., and FuelCell Energy, Microsoft is building a fuel cell system that will use biogas to power a data center, Engadget reported. The project, paid for with $5.5 million in research and development funds from Microsoft, will attempt to use the biogas from the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility to not only power its data center, but sell back excess energy to the power company.

The system will generate 200 kilowatts of power, according to Microsoft. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2013. If successful, the company may build more data centers near other water treatment plants, landfills or dairy farms.

Hewlett-Packard Labs announced similar plans in 2010 to harness the power from the waste of 10,000 dairy cows to run a data center.

"The idea of using animal waste to generate energy has been around for centuries, with manure being used every day in remote villages to generate heat for cooking,” HP research scientist Tom Christian said. “The new idea that we are presenting in this research is to create a symbiotic relationship between farms and the IT ecosystem that can benefit the farm, the data center and the environment."