HP Buys Wind Power for Massive Texas Data Center Cluster
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

HP Buys Wind Power for Massive Texas Data Center Cluster

Signs its first utility-scale power purchase agreement with developer behind 300 MW project

HP has signed a long-term power purchase agreement with a wind-farm developer to get renewable energy for its huge Texas data center operations, the company announced Tuesday.

This is HP’s first utility-scale purchase of renewable energy, which the company expects will put it ahead of schedule in meeting its carbon-reduction goals. Its Texas data center operations are enormous: 1.5 million square feet of data center space across five facilities in multiple cities supporting the company’s own global IT requirements as well as IT services it provides to some of its customers. There is one each in Houston, Hockley, and Plano, and two in Austin.

Investment in utility-scale renewable-energy projects via long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) to compensate for non-renewable energy consumed by data centers is an approach pioneered by web-scale data center operators, namely Google, which started doing it about five years ago. Since then, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon have struck similar deals with developers.

Some of the most recent renewable-energy deals -- announced just this month -- were struck by Amazon, which invested in a North Carolina wind farm to address the power consumption of its data centers in Virginia, and by Facebook, which signed a wind PPA in Texas to power the data center it’s building in Fort Worth.

In most instances, these PPAs provide the funding necessary to complete the projects, which is the case with HP’s recent agreement. HP’s 12-year commitment to buy the output of 112 MW of generation capacity enabled SunEdison, the developer, to start construction of the project, according to HP.

HP said the deal will provide enough renewable energy to power 100 percent of its Texas data center operations.

When completed, the South Plains II wind farm in Texas will have total generation capacity of 300 MW. SunEdison will operate the wind farm, but it will be owned by TerraForm Power, a major international owner and operator of renewable-energy plants.

The amount of money the ICT sector in general spends on renewable energy is growing faster than other sectors’ spend, according to a recent report by the US government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and compensating for grid power used by massive data centers is one of the major investment drivers.

Globally, data centers are responsible for about 30 percent of electricity consumption attributable to the ICT sector, the NREL report said, citing an estimate by researchers at the Ghent University in Belgium. The rest of the sector’s energy consumption is split between telecommunications infrastructure and end-user devices.

In the US, HP is the fifth biggest user of renewables, having consumed 280,560 MWh of clean energy in 2014, according to NREL, which used figures some companies disclose voluntarily through various programs. The figure represents 14 percent of the company’s total energy consumption that year.

At the top of the list is Intel, which bought enough renewable energy or renewable energy credits to make the entire 3 million MWh of energy its offices, data centers, and processor fabrication facilities consumed in 2014 renewable. Intel is followed by Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Cisco.

HP’s goal has been to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from its operations by 20 percent of 2010 levels by 2020. The company expects its Texas wind PPA to get it to that goal by the end of this year.

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