Microsoft has agreed to lease the battery packs that power its Dublin data center to the Irish government. These huge lithium-ion battery packs will help stabilize the electricity generated by Irish wind farms.
Some 400 wind farms in Ireland collectively generate more than 35% of the island’s electricity. While wind provides clean energy, they do present challenges for power generation and distribution companies. Wind strength fluctuates throughout the day or throughout the season, causing considerable variation in power generation.
Every grid operator that relies on fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas must maintain so-called rotating reserves. This excess capacity helps distribution companies respond quickly to changes in demand.
In Ireland, Microsoft’s data center batteries, consisting mostly of large lithium-ion batteries, will provide these services to help reduce the need to maintain spinning reserves at power plants. Microsoft commissioned a study to analyze the potential impact of the technology. By 2025, Microsoft’s batteries could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2 million tons into the atmosphere, the study said.
Data centers must operate with very high reliability, with some claiming 99.999% uptime. To achieve this, data center operators rely in part on batteries in UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). Needless to say, the UPS needs to be on at all times. Microsoft has partnered with smart power management company Eaton to develop and test grid-interactive UPS. Together, the two companies have successfully used data center UPSs on large grids that receive electricity from renewable sources.
Nearly every grid operator in the world is exploring renewable energy. However, obtaining a stable power input and providing a reliable supply are two key challenges. Huge battery packs can act as intermediaries. Microsoft’s contribution can help the Irish government effectively balance supply and demand while continuing to generate more electricity from green and renewable energy sources.
As countries gradually build up their renewable energy production, they will need larger battery packs. In addition to helping the world go green, there’s a good chance Microsoft is exploring another revenue stream.