Enchanted Rock to Develop RNG-powered Microgrid for Microsoft Data Center in California

Enchanted Rock, a Texas-based microgrid firm, has announced its newest contract with Microsoft to develop California’s largest microgrid which will be fully powered by renewable natural gas(RNG). In March, Microsoft shared its plan to build a microgrid powered by clean energy for its data center in San Jose, California. The project includes building a 100-MW microgrid featuring 224 natural gas generators, each with a 0.45 MW capacity. The need for reliable cloud services, data access, and connectivity is a core part of data centers. Building a microgrid powered by RNG ensures reliable power and opens a path for achieving sustainability goals as a company. Microsoft is set to be carbon negative by 2030 with plans to match its power usage to renewable output hour by hour. In light of this, the Azure company tested the use of hydrogen fuel cells for 48 consecutive hours in one of the data centers back in 2018.

“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.” Brian Janous, General Manager – DC energy & sustainability at Microsoft.

There is a need to reduce reliance on diesel for backup power generation to diminish the climate crisis and environmental degradation in several communities. Enchanted Rock started early in helping developers achieve the replacement of diesel with clean energy. The onsite generators will make use of natural gas as fuels, while an equal amount of zero-carbon RNG will be injected upstream into the gas pipeline to offset the use of natural gas. The RNG will be sourced from facilities that produce methane, such as agricultural products, food, and livestock waste. Enchanted Rock says that this project will surpass the CARB(California Air Resources Board) emission requirements as the local emissions would be 80%-96% lower than Tier 4 diesel standards. 

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) remains the local electric utility provider. However, in the event of a loss of electrical service, the microgrid by Enchanted Rock will provide electrical power to support the data center during utility outages, onsite electrical equipment interruptions, or failure. The microgrids will also provide energy management services such as load shedding, demand response, and behind-the-meter resource adequacy ancillary services. 

“Today’s digital world relies on the uptime and continuity of data center operations,” said Thomas McAndrew, CEO of Enchanted Rock, which describes itself as a provider of electrical resiliency-as-a-service. “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.”

Enchanted Rock will begin the microgrid installation by late 2023 and complete it by mid-2024 to power two five-story data center buildings for Microsoft.

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