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Microsoft Singapore to tap solar energy for datacentre operations

Software giant Microsoft will buy 100% of the renewable energy generated by solar panels installed on rooftops across Singapore to power its datacentre operations

Software giant Microsoft will be tapping solar energy generated by solar panels installed on hundreds of rooftops across Singapore to power its datacentre operations, creating the single-largest solar energy project in the city-state.

Through a 20-year agreement with solar energy provider Sunseap Group, Microsoft will purchase 100% of the renewable energy from the solar panels, which are expected to generate peak power capacity of up to 60 megawatts – enough to power more than 90,000 Singapore homes for an hour.

When operational by the end of 2018, the new solar energy project, which is focused on serving datacentre energy needs, will bring Microsoft’s total global direct procurement in renewable energy projects to 860 megawatts, said Christian Belady, Microsoft’s general manager for cloud infrastructure strategy and architecture.

The Sunseap deal is Microsoft’s first renewable energy deal in Asia, following two wind deals inked in Ireland and the Netherlands in 2017. The company is on track to exceed its goal of powering half its global datacentre load with renewable energy this year, Belady said.

Hailing the agreement as a milestone in Singapore’s efforts to grow the clean energy industry, Gian Yi-Hsen, executive director for clean technology at the country’s Economic Development Board, said: “We are seeing a distinctive trend of local and foreign companies using up to 100% renewable energy to power their business operations, and Singapore is positioning itself to serve that need.”

Apart from Microsoft, other major companies in Singapore such as DBS Bank are also looking to tap renewable energy sources to power their datacentre operations.  

In October 2017, DBS became the first Asian bank to take part in the RE100 global renewable energy campaign, which brings together global businesses committed to using 100% renewable energy to power their operations. DBS has set a target to power all its Singapore operations using renewable energy by 2030.

The bank, Southeast Asia’s largest by market capitalisation, is also working with datacentre service provider Equinix to transform one of its traditional datacentres in Singapore into a cloud-optimised one with a smaller datacentre footprint and lower operating costs.

Read more about datacentres in APAC

Datacentres are power guzzlers because they need to be kept cool and running all the time. Energy-related costs can account for up to 49% of a typical datacentre’s operating expenditure.

In Singapore, datacentres currently account for up 9% of the country’s power capacity, a figure that is projected to reach 12% by 2020 as the sector grows.

Besides tapping renewable energy, Microsoft said it is also working to make its datacentres more energy efficient. “We’re encouraged by the data that we see in our own datacentres and across the world, which shows this is working – while datacentres continue to expand, energy use has essentially stayed flat,” it told Computer Weekly.

Read more on Datacentre energy efficiency and green IT

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