Microsoft is conjuring plans to power a data center with the renewable fuel emitted by landfills: biogas. Microsoft would construct its own power plant, which would then use that gas to generate electricity to power its data centers. This would be achieved using fuel cells.
This is reminiscent of the landfill-powered factory that S.C. Johnson set up. The usage of rubbish, and other forms of waste, such as decaying sewage, can and will help to attain the goal of energy independence, as well as increased sustainability.
We don’t write about biogas a lot here on CleanTechnica. In case you didn’t know, biogas is very similar to natural gas. Natural gas is 95% methane. Biogas consists mostly of methane and carbon dioxide.
Methane is one gas that is produced by waste in, literally, all countries in the world. Not only is the gas free (when produced by decaying landfills and sewage), but using it would actually reduce the release of methane into the environment (an important cause of global warming) by converting it partially into carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide is not as potent a greenhouse gas as methane, so burning methane, which results in mostly water and carbon dioxide emissions, is expected to have a net negative effect on global warming (as in, it will decrease warming relative to simply emitting methane on its own).
Microsoft’s Biogas-Powered Data Center
Microsoft plans to build its data center at the site of the landfill or wastewater treatment plant it wants to procure biogas from, rather than take it from a biogas pipeline.
It says that this project is to not only avoid the pollution its data center would normally cause if powered by the electricity grid (which is partly powered by fossil fuels), but also to increase its reliability. This would enable the company to avoid power supply interruptions from grid malfunctions caused by automobile accidents, overloading, and age-related failures.
Microsoft will first test a small-scale prototype, and is trying to find a methane-emitting site for this.
Photo Credit: Microsoft