California’s largest renewable microgrid to ensure data center resiliency

Renewable microgrid

Enchanted Rock, a provider of electrical resiliency-as-a-service, has announced that it has been contracted by Microsoft to develop California’s largest microgrid fully supported by renewable natural gas (RNG). The microgrid will provide Microsoft’s San Jose, CA, data center with backup power to ensure continuous operations. 

The company says that the project is expected to out-perform current California Air Resources Board emissions requirements for distributed generation, the most stringent in the world, with hourly local emissions 80 to 96 per cent lower than Tier 4 diesel standards while delivering higher reliability.

“Today’s digital world relies on the uptime and continuity of data center operations,” said Thomas McAndrew, CEO of Enchanted Rock. “This continuity does not need to come at the expense of companies’ carbon emission reduction goals or local air quality. Microsoft’s decision to pursue a renewable microgrid marks another milestone in the industry as businesses continue to move away from conventional, less carbon-friendly methods, and we expect this project will demonstrate that large-scale, reliable, and cost-effective backup generation with net-zero carbon can become the new standard.”

Brian Janous, General Manager of DC Energy & Sustainability at Microsoft, said: “This project helps Microsoft take a step towards our goal of eliminating dependence on petroleum-based diesel while increasing the resilience of our data center and providing a much-needed capacity resource to the local grid.”

“The climate crisis and environmental degradation hit underserved communities first and hardest,” said Senator Ben Hueso. “These communities suffer through poor air quality, intolerable heat waves, and punishing droughts. We must take immediate action to reverse the climate crisis and address local environmental impacts. I am hopeful that one day all data centers will replace their backup power systems with carbon-negative, clean, renewable natural gas. This announcement will set a precedent I believe all of California’s roughly 240 data centers should follow.”

Power for the microgrid will be supplied by net-zero carbon RNG, injected upstream into the gas pipeline to offset the use of fossil gas. Enchanted Rock sources RNG captured from facilities that emit methane such as food waste and agricultural operations, making it part of the circular economy with neutral or negative carbon intensity.

“California needs practical alternatives to diesel backup generation in order to protect public health and prevent catastrophic climate change,” said Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, a statewide organisation that advocates for clean air policies. “This means deploying flexible, dispatchable solutions that can tackle the intermittent nature of renewables, while reducing the environmental and public health impacts of diesel-fueled generators”

“Enchanted Rock and Microsoft are members of the newly announced Infrastructure Masons Climate Accord which is focused on reducing carbon in materials, products and power in the digital infrastructure industry,” said Dean Nelson, Chairman and Founder of Infrastructure Masons. “We applaud the work they are doing together to drive microgrid innovation at scale, reducing carbon intensity in electrical service without harming public health.”

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