Microsoft Reveals Plans to Build Sustainable Data Center Region in Sweden

Microsoft Reveals Plans to Build Sustainable Data Center Region in Sweden

Microsoft will open zero carbon and the most sustainable data center region in Sweden in 2021.

This week, Microsoft announced plans to launch its most advanced and sustainable data center region in Sweden next year, with a presence in Gävle Sandviken and Staffanstorp. This is a part of the Redmond giant's continued investment in community development to support new economic opportunities within the region and the remainder of Sweden. Microsoft's community investments in Sweden totals more than US$1.25 million in partnership with 13 organizations to advance STEM programs focused on youth, skilling, and culture. Earlier, Microsoft had also pledged to use 100% renewable energy in all of its buildings and data centers by 2025.

Microsoft has announced that it will be more transparent about the way that energy consumption in its Swedish facilities is matched with renewable energy generation. For this, the corporate entered into a partnership with European electricity producer Vattenfall AB. Together they designed a technology called the Vattenfall 24/7 matching solution. This solution provides a more accurate way of matching electricity consumption with renewable energy. It was piloted at both Microsoft's Swedish headquarters and Vattenfall last year. Every hour, the Vattenfall 24/7 solution measures the energy produced by renewable sources via IoT devices, while measuring power consumption on-site thanks to smart meters, to provide the full picture of energy consumption in a given building.

After displaying a promising result, this solution is now available to customers across Sweden. Microsoft said in its blog post that the new data center region would be the first hyper-scale cloud region to use the Vattenfall 24/7 solution in a commercial product, enabling it and other Vattenfall customers to see if its 100 percent renewable energy commitment covers each hour of consumption and to translate sourcing of renewable energy into climate impact.

This initiative will ensure transparency of supply and demand, as market forces cannot ensure that renewable energy demand is supplied from renewable sources. It will also warrant monitoring of the source and quantity of energy consumed. This is crucial because although Microsoft has purchased energy certificates, called Guarantees of Origin (GOs) in Europe, it doesn't account for variations in demand over shorter periods.  GOs are amounts of renewable energy that are calculated based on the building's average consumption of electricity over a year.

Microsoft also announced that it would train 150,000 Swedish citizens in AI and cybersecurity skills, under the #SkillUpSweden initiative, in collaboration with Sigma Young Talent. For this, it has gifted the local communities of Gävle, Sandviken, and Staffanstorp with Microsoft hardware, ahead of data centers being launched near these cities. Microsoft's sustainable data center region in Sweden will also offer local cloud services to its European customers, including Microsoft 365, Microsoft Azure and Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.  Existing Swedish customers and partner companies like H&M Group, Sandvik Coromant and Accenture Sweden will also avail of Microsoft Cloud services when available from the new region in Sweden. Additionally, this new region will also deliver Availability Zones, which are fault-isolated locations within an Azure region, enabling customers to design their applications with additional tolerance to data center failures. Apart from that, the data center will seek zero-waste certification and include a Microsoft Circular Center, designed to extend the life cycle of servers by reusing and supporting a circular economy for the Microsoft Cloud.

Microsoft also said the new data centers would be designed as zero waste operations and hinted at plans to use its blockchain services to manage its data center assets. Noelle Walsh, CVP, Cloud Operations & Innovation for Microsoft, mentions that the company intends its data centers in Sweden to be among the most sustainably designed and operated in the world with the ultimate ambition of achieving zero-carbon operations. He also says that the Vattenfall 24/7 Matching solution enables Microsoft to have a more accurate picture of energy used to match with Guarantees of Origin (GOs). "This marks another important step in our commitment to be carbon negative by 2030 and use 100% renewable energy by 2025," he adds.

Microsoft has been running its first carbon-free energy data center in Seattle since 2017, at the Advanced Energy Labs. This Swedish data center region will be an addition to Microsoft's existing European data center footprint, joining the ranks of its other planned data centers in Norway and Switzerland, and available data centers in Austria, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Sweden is already home to Facebook's data center campus in Lulea, along with a newly-opened Amazon Web Services cloud region around Stockholm.

This announcement has been welcomed by Node Pole, the economic development agency which is responsible for promoting Sweden to the data center industry.

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