Microsoft is opening this 'advanced and sustainable' datacenter region next year

The cloud provider is expanding its European footprint, in line with its commitments to the environment.

Data centers: Putting green credentials at the heart of the offering

Microsoft is launching a new datacenter region in Sweden next year, and in line with the company's commitment to fighting climate change, has vowed that the deployments in the country will be among the company's most advanced and sustainable locations. 

The cloud provider has previously pledged that it will use 100% renewable energy in all of its buildings and datacenters by 2025. To support this goal in Sweden, Microsoft has announced that it will be more transparent about the way that energy consumption in its Swedish facilities is matched with renewable energy generation, thanks to a new service developed in partnership with European electricity producer Vattenfall. 

Microsoft and Vattenfall have designed a technology called the 24/7 matching solution, which provides a more accurate way of matching electricity consumption with renewable energy. The technology has been used as a pilot in both Vattenfall and Microsoft's Swedish headquarters for the past year, with encouraging results

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To mitigate the impact of its data centers' power consumption, Microsoft purchases energy certificates, called Guarantees of Origin (GOs) in Europe, which are amounts of renewable energy that are calculated based on the building's average consumption of electricity over a year.  

The process doesn't account for variations in demand over shorter time periods; and yet over the course of a day, for example, a building might need electrical supply from alternative sources of electricity, if the sun isn't shining or if the wind is too weak. Existing ways of monitoring consumption fail to go into this level of detail, which means that there is effectively no way of knowing the exact sources of a datacenter's energy consumption on an hour-by-hour basis.  

Noelle Walsh, Microsoft's corporate vice president of cloud operations and innovations, said in a blog post: "While we have seen remarkable progress toward renewable sourcing and commitments, there is a fundamental flaw in monitoring the source and quantity of energy consumed. And without the transparency of supply and demand, market forces cannot work to ensure that renewable energy demand is supplied from renewable sources." 

To improve transparency, Microsoft worked with Vattenfall to develop a technology that taps IoT devices to hourly match renewable energy generation with demand for power. Every hour, the technology measures the energy produced by renewable sources, while measuring power consumption on-site thanks to smart meters, to provide the full picture of energy consumption in a given building. 

"The Vattenfall 24/7 Matching solution enables us to have a more accurate picture of energy used to match with Guarantees of Origin (GOs)," Walsh said. This marks another important step in our commitment to be carbon negative by 2030 and use 100% renewable energy by 2025." 

The new Swedish datacenter region will be the first to use Vattenfall's 24/7 service to provide insight into whether Microsoft's commitment to 100% renewable energy effectively covers each hour of consumption, instead of relying on yearly averages. 

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In addition, the region will include a so-called "circular center", which was designed by Microsoft as a way to reduce the e-waste caused by servers and related components. Circular centers tap machine learning to sort through devices and parts, and to re-use as much hardware as possible. The company expects that the technology will increase the re-purposing of components in its global operations to 90% by 2025. 

With locations in Gävle Sandviken and Staffanstorp, Microsoft's new sustainable datacenter region in Sweden will locally deliver cloud services to its European customers, including Microsoft 365, Microsoft Azure and Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.  

"Building on Microsoft's 35-year history in Sweden and strong partnerships across the energy, manufacturing and retail sectors, we are looking forward to delivering the Microsoft Cloud from this new datacenter region in 2021," said Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president of Microsoft global sales. "It's a game-changer that the new cloud region will be powered by 100% renewable energy, thanks to our partnerships with Vattenfall and a world-class sustainable design." 

The Swedish region will add to Microsoft's European datacenter footprint, with locations already running in Austria, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK.