Prototype data center on methane

Although the preliminary phase of the project took longer than expected, Microsoft opened the long-awaited data center with zero carbon emissions in Wyoming, USA. Biological gas - in this case, methane is pumped into special fuel cells, which subsequently provide electricity for the data center servers. With this process, a completely waste-free production of electricity occurs, and the excess heat generated is sent back to the processing chamber to accelerate anaerobic fermentation.

A 200 kW data center consists of a transportation container (ITPAC), there are servers in this container, and a 300 kW fuel cell converts biogas, which is a by-product of the wastewater treatment process, into electricity, which in turn is used to operate the data center. Monitoring systems are based on Siemens industrial controllers.

Back in 2012, the Wyoming Economic Development Agency made a decision to allocate a grant of $ 1.5 million for infrastructure development for a Microsoft pilot project. The project consisted of the following: to show whether it is possible to operate a data center in a continuous autonomous mode on electricity, which is produced by converting methane. Methane, in turn, is formed at treatment facilities. The goal is to make the data center minimally dependent on unstable electrical networks, and the mechanisms for storing, processing and transmitting data are more environmentally friendly, in contrast to data centers that use electricity generated by coal-fired power plants. The idea seemed pretty radical, although the ideas had already been met before: 365 Main Infinity ONE, an IBM data center on the campus of Syracuse University,


It was assumed that such a data center would use biogas fuel cells. Biogas is one of the products of anaerobic fermentation. Without access to air, organic substances ferment and biogas is released. Methane fermentation (sometimes incorrectly called anaerobic fermentation) is a series of biological processes of organic substances with the release of free methane. The construction site was chosen in close proximity to the water treatment facilities. Christian Beladi, CEO of Microsoft Data Center Services, calls this concept “Data Plant”.


An experiment was preliminarily conducted, which made it possible to make the following calculations: a small container data center with a capacity of 200 kW working completely on biogas will reduce more than 900 thousand kg of CO2 emissions annually. Microsoft engineers use a standard 20-foot container (6 x 2.5 meters) with servers, which is located near the Dry Creek Wasterwater Reclamation Facility.


At the 2013 Data Center World Exhibition and Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Microsoft's Director of Energy Strategy, Brian Yanosh, raised the topic of the Data Plant project in 2013, saying that Microsoft is committed to improving data center energy efficiency. For more efficient use, Redmondites use methane fuel cells coming from treatment plants. Methane is a relatively environmentally friendly, renewable and very affordable resource. Storage facilities with biogas are located directly on the territory of the data center, which ensures its autonomy.

“The production of energy inside the data center instead of connecting the data center to the energy infrastructure of any region is our main difference from the traditional power supply scheme. A large amount of energy is lost, which leads to financial losses. But we show how the introduction of a small power source into the data center network infrastructure element allows us to reduce the complexity of the energy distribution project between the elements of the entire system ”

The data center does not work from the mains, which in itself is one of the main achievements. Used environmentally hazardous waste is recycled and its release into the atmosphere is prevented, since methane is a greenhouse gas. Unlike oil, coal and gas minerals, the use of fuels produced from renewable raw materials (in most cases biomass) does not lead to an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. Such a system will also serve as a research base for biogas and fuel cell technology, in partnership with the University of Wyoming.

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