Digital Realty Buys Wind Energy for Its Entire US Colocation Footprint

Becomes third major US data center provider to sign utility-scale power purchase agreement

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

July 13, 2016

3 Min Read
Digital Realty Buys Wind Energy for Its Entire US Colocation Footprint
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Digital Realty Trust has become the third major US-based data center provider to buy enough renewable energy to offset 100 percent of its US colocation data center power consumption. The company has agreed to buy about 400,000 megawatt-hours of energy per year from a wind farm operator, according to a statement issued Wednesday, which will offset energy consumed by facilities where the company provides colocation and interconnection services, the footprint that consists mostly of facilities it gained through the acquisition of Telx.

The agreement is the latest sign that renewable energy is becoming more and more important to data center customers, and that data center providers increasingly view the ability to power their facilities with renewable energy as a competitive advantage. Renewable energy has also become price competitive with regular grid energy, making it even more attractive to data center operators from business perspective.

Until recently, such long-term utility-scale data center power purchase agreements had been signed exclusively by web and cloud giants, such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Last year, however, Equinix, the world’s largest data center provider, and Switch, a smaller but important provider, announced the first big renewable energy deals in the industry.

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While clean energy is becoming more and more of a focus for data center users and operators, getting energy from a wind farm or a photovoltaic installation directly to a data center site remains an often insurmountable challenge. The best place to build a wind farm is different from the best place to build a data center, and electrical transmission infrastructure and utility regulations in most markets make it difficult to transport energy from the former to the latter.

Energy in Digital realty's recent deal will be generated by a wind farm in North Texas, but the company's data centers are in many locations across the US.

Read more: Cleaning Up Data Center Power is Dirty Work

The predominant way of addressing the challenge has been buying renewable energy generated in one place on the grid, and consuming an equivalent amount of regular grid energy wherever the data center happens to be. While enabling a substantial amount of new renewable energy generation capacity to come online, such arrangements do little to reduce the amount of non-renewable energy that’s being generated currently.

Overall, Digital Realty procured 2.9 billion kilowatt-hours of energy on behalf of customers last year, 600 million kWh of which came from wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation sources, the company said. The recent agreement increases the amount of renewable energy the company purchases by about two-thirds.

Last year, Digital Realty kicked off a program under which it would procure renewable data center power for its customers premium-free for one year. The program, called Clean Start, is available to customers at all Digital Realty data center locations around the world.

See also: Here's How Much Energy All US Data Centers Consume

Corrected: The recent wind power deal will offset energy consumed by Digital realty's colocation and interconnection business in the US, not its entire US property portfolio as this article previously stated.

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