Feeds

Microsoft building poo-powered carbon-neutral data center

Sewage plant systems profitably full of crap

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Microsoft is spending $5.5m to build a data center in the Wyoming hills that's powered by methane created from the waste of its nearby residents, and sees a lot of opportunity for mixing computing and crap.

The methane produced by decomposing waste at sewage farms has traditionally either been left to float off into the atmosphere or is burnt off. But Redmond reckons it has cracked a way to use the gas to reliably power a data center off-grid via fuel cells, then use the heat generated to help run the sewage plant and capture any remaining carbon dioxide for industrial use.

"By capturing and reusing biogas on premise with our data centers, we will be able to significantly reduce their carbon emissions while producing beneficial uses at the same time," said Sean James, senior research manager at Microsoft's data center advanced development group.

"This project will study new methods for providing a stable, clean, scalable, and economically efficient power source for data centers that could become a best practice for use by other industries in the future as well."

To prove its point, the company is building a 200kW Data Plant (as it's calling the design) at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The plant will use specially tailored microorganisms to break down the sewage and release methane, but they need to be kept warm to operate.

Microsoft's data plant that runs on sewage

Admittedly not the nicest place to do tech support

Microsoft's Data Plant comes with a 300kW molten carbonate fuel cell that's powered by the methane, once it's been scrubbed and dried. The cell generates the power for the data center, with the hydrogen and carbon dioxide generated in the process getting collected, and the waste heat from the servers redirected to the sewage plant tanks.

Using biogas for power isn't new, but it's traditionally siphoned off and mixed with natural gas. Microsoft thinks this new system will eliminate the need for a gas line, because the modular Data Plants can be sized to match biogas production and the closed generation system is so efficient.

"In a sense, wastewater treatment plants can be considered distant cousins of data centers – they are mission critical facilities with high availability infrastructure built into the plant," said James. "These plants cannot go offline any more than a community can stop flushing. The result ensures a very consistent and reliable flow of biogas to power our Data Plant." ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Bitcasa bins $10-a-month Infinite storage offer
Firm cites 'low demand' plus 'abusers'
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.