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Understanding energy use and sustainability investments at the Virginia datacenters

In each building at every campus and datacenter, sustainability is a key priority for Microsoft across all phases of a project— from site selection to design and construction to operations and decommissioning.  Microsoft datacenters, including our facilities in Virginia, are key to our sustainability goals.

Carbon negative by 2030

For our datacenters in Virginia, Microsoft is procuring approximately 80 percent renewable energy from solar, wind, and hydro resources. We have signed power purchase agreements with AES, EDF, EDPR, and Volt.

Power usage effectiveness (PUE) measures cloud energy efficiency. The calculation is total power consumption divided by IT power consumption. A lower PUE score indicates more energy-efficient datacenters, with a PUE of 1.0 being the best score. Our Boydton datacenters had a 12-month weighted average PUE of 1.18 for 2021. The new datacenters that commenced design January 2021 will have a design PUE of 1.12.

Globally, Microsoft datacenters use fossil fuel generators for backup power and account for less than 1 percent of our overall emissions. In specific regions, Microsoft is piloting running backup generators with renewable blend, cleaner-burning fuels, and is also piloting the replacement of datacenter generators with long-duration batteries.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the world’s largest green building certification program. LEED provides the framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings with lower carbon emissions. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. The majority of Boydton, Virginia datacenters are LEED certified and moving forward, new Microsoft datacenters being built are designed to earn LEED Gold certification.

Microsoft operations in Virginia comply with applicable air quality requirements.

Water positive by 2030

Water usage effectiveness (WUE) is another key metric relating to the efficient and sustainable operations of our datacenters and is a crucial aspect as we work towards our commitment to be water positive by 2030. WUE is calculated by dividing the number of liters of water used for humidification and cooling by the total annual amount of power (measured in kWh) needed to operate our datacenter IT equipment.

Microsoft uses outdoor air with direct evaporative cooling at our Boydton datacenters. This method of cooling uses outside air and zero water for cooling when temperatures are below 29.4 degrees Celsius, reducing water for cooling to less than 15 percent of the year. This system is highly efficient, using less electricity and a fraction of water used by other water-based cooling systems, such as cooling towers.

During 2021, datacenters in Virginia had an operating WUE of 0.18 L/kWh. The new facilities are designed to have a WUE rate of 0.06 L/kWh.

Zero waste by 2030

Microsoft has a goal to achieve 90 percent diversion of datacenter operational waste by 2030. To reach this goal, we’re working closely with our waste haulers to optimize waste diversion programs across our global datacenter portfolio. We have achieved Zero Waste certifications for our San Antonio, Texas; Quincy, Washington; Boydton, Virginia; and Dublin, Ireland datacenter locations.

In January 2021, we opened a Microsoft Circular Center in our Boydton datacenter, which is designed to extend the life cycle of servers through reuse and to support a circular economy for the Microsoft Cloud. The Boydton Circular Center is able to process up to 12,000 servers per month for reuse.

Globally, Microsoft datacenters reuse 78 percent of our end-of-life assets and components; the remaining 22 percent of materials are recycled. Additionally, Microsoft is conducting research and development to improve waste diversion by determining new recycling solutions for used air filters and fiber optic cables.