The race to build a green internet is in full swing, with Microsoft announcing today that it is purchasing 175 MW of wind energy in Illinois to power its data center operations there.
Electricity generated by that wind farm will power Microsoft’s data center in Chicago, one of the facilities that runs services like Office 365, Xbox Live, Bing, and Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing offering.
This is the second time Microsoft has turned to wind energy to power its data centers. It announced its first such “power purchase agreement” last year for 110 MW of wind energy to power its Texas data center.
As Greenpeace commented when Microsoft made its Texas wind deal, our praise of Microsoft’s procurement of wind energy in Illinois comes with a caveat: unlike its competitors Google and Rackspace, Microsoft still has not yet committed to power all 100% of its operations with renewable energy.
A closer look at some of Microsoft’s other data centers shows why the 100% commitment is so important for the company. Microsoft has announced recent expansions in Virginia and Iowa, where polluting forms of energy like coal, gas and nuclear are powering its operations and where Microsoft has so far done nothing to procure cleaner electricity. In Iowa, that stands in sharp contrast to Facebook and Google, both of which are powering their Iowa data centers with 100% wind energy.
But even if it has much more work to do, Microsoft is increasingly making efforts to power its corner of the internet with renewable energy; the same can’t be said of Amazon Web Services. Microsoft’s progress, especially when taken alongside the commitments by Amazon’s other biggest cloud competitors, Rackspace and Google, highlight the failure by Amazon Web Services to reach even the starting line in the race to build a clean cloud and green internet.
As other companies move to embrace solar and wind, AWS risks losing business from customers that are beginning to expect their cloud to be powered by renewable energy.