Microsoft might be about to take the prize for the most unlikely clean power source – sewage according the Greenbz.com article Microsoft to debut sewage-powered data center. Microsoft plans to power a demo data center with sewage, yeah poo.
FuelCell Energy (FCEL) recently revealed to the blog, it is working with MSFT on a $5.5 million trial that will use biogas from a wastewater treatment facility to power a fuel cell. The fuel cell at Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne, WY will provide “ultra-clean and carbon-neutral electricity” to a Microsoft (MSFT) data center.
InfoWeek says that biogas is made mostly of methane and carbon dioxide, but may also contain small amounts of other gasses, including hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen. It’s produced by anaerobic digestion, a process in which bacteria that live only in places without air break down organic, biodegradable matter, such as sewage, animal manure, municipal waste and plant material.
The initial trial will use one of FuelCell Energy’s sub-megawatt Direct FuelCell (DFC) power plant system that will generate 200 kW of power for a Microsoft IT pre-assembled component (ITPAC) modular data center, set up to resemble a standard data center environment. Any electricity not used by the data center will be used to help power the water treatment plant, while the system will also provide usable heat for the facility.
Power Engineering explains that stationary DFC power plants convert a fuel source into electricity and usable high-temperature heat suitable for making steam. DFC plants are fuel flexible, capable of operating on natural gas, renewable biogas, directed biogas and other fuels including propane. The fuel cell generates electricity and heat electrochemically.
Gregg McKnight, general manager for data center advanced development at Microsoft, told Greenbiz.com that with the company having recently committed to becoming “carbon neutral” by 2013 it was committed to exploring the viability of a wide range of renewable energy sources. He is quoted in the article, “… Microsoft is researching new methods to help our operations become more efficient and environmentally sustainable,” he said. “This project will study methods to provide an economical and reliable power supply for data centers that is also scalable and economical for use by other industries.”
OK let the snarky comments rip about MSFT software powered from the sewer or as one commenter noted, leave it to Microsoft to power its cloud services with a very different kind of cloud — a smellier, gaseous one.
I covered HP’s (HPQ) plans to power its data centers with cow manure here. It looks like Microsoft aims to build more data plants near other sources of renewable energy like landfills, wastewater treatment plants and even dairy farms.