Microsoft has agreed to lease the battery packs that power its Dublin data centre to the Irish government. These huge lithium-ion battery packs will help stabilize the use of electricity generated by Ireland's wind farms.
Ireland has about 400 wind farms that together generate more than 35 percent of the island's electricity. Although winds provide clean energy, they do present challenges for power generation and distribution companies. The strength of the wind fluctuates throughout the day or season, resulting in considerable variations 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 power distribution companies respond quickly to changes in demand.
In Ireland, Microsoft's data centre batteries, which consist mainly of large lithium ion batteries, will provide these services to help reduce the need to maintain rotating reserves at power plants. Microsoft commissioned a study to analyse the potential impact of the technology. By 2025, Microsoft's batteries could save 2 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, the study said.
Data centers must operate with very high reliability, with some claiming 99.999% uptime. To do this, data center operators rely in part on batteries in UPS (uninterruptible power supplies). Needless to say, UPS needs to be on at all times. Microsoft has partnered with Eaton, an intelligent power management company, to develop and test an interactive UPS for the grid. Together, the two companies have successfully used UPS, a data centre, for a large grid that accepts electricity from renewable sources.
Almost every grid operator in the world is exploring renewable energy. However, securing a stable power input and providing reliable supply are two key challenges. The giant battery pack acts as an intermediary. Microsoft's contribution can help the Irish government effectively balance supply and demand while continuing to generate more electricity from green and renewable sources.
As countries build up their renewable energy production, they will need bigger battery packs. In addition to helping the world go green, Microsoft may well be exploring another source of revenue.