Microsoft Cuts Ribbon On First Data Center That's Off The Grid

Microsoft has become quite the green business leader lately – creating an internal carbon fee and buying the output of two wind farms to run some of its data centers.

Now, they’ve cut the ribbon on a very creative project that we hope will become widespread – the first net-zero energy data center – in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Microsoft calls it the first zero-carbon, waste-to-energy-powered data center which runs on biogas fuel cell power.  The first data center to be completely off the grid – a feat for these energy hogs – it’s powered by biogas generated by the wastewater treatment plant next door. The biogas powers fuel cells, which in turn run the data center.

Virtually no air pollutants are released because there is no  combustion and the modular plant can be easily duplicated.


The secret sauce is the size of the data center. It can be energy independent because it’s so small, just 200 kilowatts (kW). The idea is to move away from gigantic energy consuming buildings and to instead size them based on the amount of fuel that can be accessed near by.

In this case, fuel cells will produce 300 kW of energy, more than the data center needs. The extra energy will be sent back to the wastewater plant, providing some of its electricity.

Water treatment plants pair well with data centers because they’re both ‘always on’. 

The project is a partnership between Microsoft, Siemens and FuelCell Energy. Siemens’ power monitoring software tracks the performance and energy output of the fuel cell to ensure consistent power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The entire system results in more reliable base load energy without the cost of electrical transmission and distribution.  

Another data center, in San Antonio, Texas, uses recycled waste water to cool the building (cooling is the biggest cost and biggest energy consumer in data centers). 

Read our article, Too Many Biogas Plants To Count, Growing Fast in US.

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Comments on “Microsoft Cuts Ribbon On First Data Center That's Off The Grid”

  1. Joe Houghton

    In my opinion this is a very very smart move by Microsoft. These fuel cell systems are very efficient and obviously when the grid goes down with an outage their data center keeps on running! These wastewater plants are everywhere AND strategically located. Good job Microsoft! Making use of waste for EVERYONES benefit! Any idea of the amount of oil rig / nat gas Flaring that is going on. Kinda stupid to BURN money AND pollute at the same time!


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