Microsoft Data Plants Will Utilize Landfills, Sewage for Power
Microsoft has plans to construct a data center that will be powered by sewage on the site of a landfill or water treatment plant, the company announced on Wednesday. The new data center will mark the beginning of Microsoft’s trek towards the deployment of “data plants,” facilities which will be energized by renewable power sources.
This new plant also places emphasis on Microsoft’s continual drive to allow its cloud computing network to be as economically effective and as green as possible.Biogas will be the primary source of the first data plant to be deployed, says Christian Belady, Microsoft’s General Manager of Data Center Services.
“Currently, our team is researching the first-ever grid independent fuel cell, data center that is fueled directly from biogas,” Belady wrote. “The experiment is small scale, so we can demonstrate and measure the benefits of it like we did with our ‘data center in a tent project’ in 2008. We are also talking with several municipalities about a public-private partnership to test a prototype.”
Harnessing Methane in Fuel Cells
The aforementioned prototype will place data centers loaded with servers and equipment racks into nearby landfills and water treatment plants. “Water treatment plants are mission critical installations that produce methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, as the sewage from our communities are broken down in an anaerobic digestion process (decomposition without oxygen),” Belady explained. Landfills also release methane in a comparable manner as the underground masses of waste that exits slowly and decompose over time. In both instances, the methane that is produced must be converted into carbon dioxide, in order to minimize the effect that the gases have on nearby surroundings and the atmosphere itself.