The competition among the biggest Internet companies in the world to power their operations with clean energy appears to have a new entrant: Microsoft.
Greenpeace has noted in the past that Microsoft hasn’t always backed up its green rhetoric with the same leadership that some of its peers have shown. Last year, we even had some fun with the company’s infamous former mascot, Clippy, whom we sent to the company’s new stores to ask if they “needed help” powering data centers with clean energy.
But Clippy has dusted off his act, and he has a new partner in crime now: wind energy.
Microsoft took a big step today when it announced that it will purchase wind energy in Texas to power its data center there, marking its first ever large-scale purchase of renewable energy.
Hopefully today’s announcement marks the beginning of a stronger commitment to renewable energy by Microsoft, who had previously relied on purchasing renewable energy credits and carbon offsets to mask a mostly dirty energy supply. Microsoft now has the potential to become one of renewable energy’s biggest buyers in 2014: the company definitely knows how to do things at scale, and is promising to use revenue from its internal carbon tax to keep purchasing renewable energy like today’s deal in Texas.
Still, Microsoft has a long way to go to catch up with some of its peers in the technology sector when it comes to spurring the growth of renewable energy. One of Microsoft’s biggest competitors, Google, has been buying renewable energy for some time in Texas and around the Midwest, where Microsoft also has data centers and could do the same.
Apple and Facebook have also stepped up, working in places like Iowa, North Carolina and Nevada, where they’ve found innovative ways to bring more clean energy online to power the Internet. Google, Apple and Facebook, along with fast-rising companies like Rackspace, Salesforce and Box, have all committed to a goal of powering their data centers with 100 % renewable electricity. Microsoft should do the same, so that users of services like Bing, Office 365 and Azure can know with certainty that today’s good news is the sign of much more to come.