Sewage Powers Microsoft's Zero Carbon Data Center

Microsoft has announced plans to spend $5.5 million to build a zero-carbon data center pilot project in Wyoming. A source of very low carbon electricity is key to such projects. Microsoft's power generation fuel? Municipal sewage!

Microsoft calls its proposed facility a Data Plant, combining "the virtues of a power plant with the high energy demand of a data center." The data center will be located at an existing sewage treatment facility, from which it will capture biogas (methane) to generate electricity via a fuel cell.

"First, trace contaminants such as siloxanes, as well as moisture are filtered out. Next, a Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell converts the remaining methane and CO2 into electrical energy without combustion and the associated pollutants. Lastly, the energy produced is used to power the modular data center. Electricity that is not consumed by data center is returned to the wastewater treatment plant to minimize any wasted capacity in the system and will provide an additional benefit to the plant as well. Earlier, I talked about the microorganisms that need heat to be effective in treating and cleaning up sewage. Going one step further, heat generated in the Data Plant's energy generation process will be sent back to the treatment plant's anaerobic digesters to increase the effectiveness of the microorganisms, further reducing energy costs, and maximizing the community's wastewater treatment plant's capacity and return of recycled water to the environment."

This is a small (200K) proof-of-concept facility, not a production megadata center for Microsoft. "At the end of the R&D pilot project, Microsoft is donating the Data Plant (including the fuel cell, clean-up equipment, servers and modular data center) to the City of Cheyenne and the University of Wyoming for further research into this technology. This pilot project site will be used to further advance other clean technology research and development projects by these groups."

Microsoft and Green ICT
How other data centers reuse waste heat
Fuel cells in Green ICT

Image courtesy Microsoft