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Microsoft’s brand new Dublin Data Center will be able to send energy through the grid

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fatima khan
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A server room at a Microsoft data center. Data centers like this have lithium-ion batteries that keep their systems running in the event of a power outage. Image: Microsoft

Microsoft claims that its data centers will soon supply electricity backup to electric grids transitioning towards renewable energy. They already possess lithium-ion batteries installed to ensure they are operating during power outages. The backup system could also back up grids that need batteries to store the power generated by the increasing number of solar turbines or wind farms.

Energy storage is essential for any region or city looking to upgrade its grid running with renewable energy. Microsoft’s new data center in Dublin, Ireland, due to open in the coming year, is the first time the company has made a full-scale effort to offer this service. Storage of energy is essential.

In contrast to gas or coal, solar and wind energy flow and ebb according to the weather. Therefore, even though they’ve become a greener and more affordable alternative to fossil fuels, they’ll require batteries that store energy for grids that can be utilized whenever required. This is the point at which Microsoft believes that its data centers could help.

The lithium-ion batteries form part of the facility’s “uninterruptible Power Supply” (UPS), which usually is activated only in an emergency. If power is cut off, the batteries usually will be charged for a short time, perhaps just a few minutes, until backup generators come back up and operate.

In Dublin, there is hope for the possibility that Microsoft’s large batteries will provide the same backup if the grid is experiencing more energy demands than it can provide through other sources of energy. However, instead of just responding to power outages, it could be able to stop these outages from happening. This system could take over the “spinning reserve” system. Currently, some coal and gas-fired power plants may produce more power than is normally required, known as the spinning reserve, in the event of a spike in energy demand or the power supply from other sources slows. With the availability of batteries and batteries in place, the requirement to maintain the spinning reserve of gas and coal-fired power plants can be reduced, as will greenhouse emissions of gases.

Microsoft hasn’t made public the amount of energy its Dublin batteries can provide. However, the data centers in its facilities typically employ “tens of megawatts of power,” according to Christian Belady, vice president of the Datacenter Advanced Development group at Microsoft. Therefore, the batteries should be able to supply around this much power. In comparison, an electric megawatt created by a power plant could provide power for a hundred houses.

This demonstrates how energy-hungry these data centers are. While they’ve improved their efficiency in recent decades, they consume approximately 1 percent of the electricity used worldwide.The company will require more renewable power for its data centers.

Microsoft announced last year that it was planning to build between 50 to 100 data centers each year. It’s an enormous increase from the 200 data centers it was operating in 2021. To prevent this growth from affecting the targets it had set to cut greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint, the company will require more renewable energy for its data centers.

In the meantime, grids and data centers they’re connected with will be able to handle the fluctuation that comes with the increase in wind and solar energy. Thus, helping grids maintain an even more stable Power Supply as they add more renewable energy sources is an area of Microsoft’s desire as time goes on.

Microsoft has tested its plans to connect the batteries of data centers with the grid in Chicago, Illinois, and Quincy, Washington, in the past. However, Ireland is the ideal location to roll out this idea commercially since it relies on more wind power than almost every other country globally. Around 35 percent of the electricity is generated by turbines, “which is extremely high,” Belady declares. “And that makes sense to be the first place to start.”

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