News roundup: Renewables conserving water, the military’s clean energy boom, and Microsoft’s aim for carbon neutrality

Friday welcomes some great news on how renewable energy can save us water, the Department of Defense is full-throttle on renewable energy, and Microsoft makes carbon-neutrality a core part of its business.

Kate Zerrenner of the Environmental Defense Fund heads to to explain why renewables, especially solar and wind, are helping us save precious freshwater resources:

  • Recent media coverage has been quick to pin the challenge of reliability as one that only applies to renewables. The logic goes something like this: if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t have electricity, making these energy sources unreliable. But if we don’t have reliable access to abundant water resources to produce, move and manage energy that comes from water-intensive energy resources like fossil fuels, this argument against the intermittency of renewables becomes moot.”
  • “We know that solar PV and wind are virtually water-free fuel sources, and yet we continue to adopt policies that create roadblocks to their integration in favor of highly-water intensive coal and natural gas. Bringing more renewable energy onto the grid is not technologically impossible, but there are significant political and policy barriers in the way. We need to rethink how we plan for energy needs and put water in the equation from the beginning.”
  • “The intermittency of renewable energy is a red herring which can be addressed through better research, development and deployment of available technologies such as energy storage, and better policies to help integrate them into the grid. But the fact that the water usage of most renewable energy is negligible means that it is the ideal power source for our water-stressed energy future.”

The National Defense blog highlights the Defense Department’s major push to power our military off clean, renewable power:

  • “An Obama administration policy directs the U.S. military to deploy 3 gigawatts — enough to power two to three million homes — of renewable energy, including solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, by 2025. It appears that the military is on a path to meet that goal, new data suggest.”
  • “Energy consulting firm Navigant projects that 322 megawatts of additional renewable energy capacity is in development at military bases and will be added over the next 24 months, bringing capacity to 706 megawatts. Of the capacity under development, 64 percent is solar photovoltaic, 20 percent is wind energy, and biomass projects will account for 9 percent.”
  • “Honeywell Corp, for instance, has a 20-year energy savings performance contract at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., that will save $170 million. SunPower has a 20-year power purchase agreement at Navy Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., that will be the Navy’s largest solar system… Tooele Army Depot in Utah installed a 1.5 megawatt wind turbine in 2010 that reportedly saves more than $200,000 per year in energy costs.”

Microsoft, along with several other major companies, is integrating a price of carbon into its daily business activities, encouraging more renewables and promoting energy efficiency:

  • “One of the most instructive examples of what companies can do to hold themselves accountable comes from Microsoft, which uses a lot of energy at its data centers and sending professionals around the world on airplanes, emitting a lot of greenhouse gases in the process.”
  • “There are three primary, simple, components to the [Microsoft Carbon Fee] Playbook: 1) organization carbon reduction policy; 2) price on carbon; and 3) carbon fee fund investment strategy.  The price on carbon is set by calculating what it will cost to execute the company’s carbon reduction strategy.”
  • “To help ensure access to power for its large data center servers near San Antonio, Microsoft purchased RECs in signing a 20-year wholesale power agreement to for electricity from a 110 megawatt wind farm near Fort Worth – the Keechi Wind Project – set to open in 2015. Because Microsoft can only buy electricity from its regulated retail provider, CPS Energy of San Antonio, the wind turbines will supply electricity to the Texas grid, which CPS Energy can draw from.”

For more great news on wind power, check out this week’s other news roundups:


Kate Zerrenner, “We Can't Expect a Reliable Energy Future Without Talking Water.” 14 January 2014.

Sandra I. Erwin, “Renewable Energy Boom Underway at U.S. Military Bases.” National Defense. 16 January 2014.

Jim Pierobon, “Actions speaking louder than advocacy: Microsoft programming for profit with carbon neutrality.” The Energy Fix. 16 January 2014.


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