News provider Bloomberg is buying solar power from renewable energy firm SunEdison, to help power its data center in Rockland County New York, through a power purchase agreement (PPA).

Solar is intermittent, while data center demand is a constant, so PPAs involve the data center owner paying for an equivalent amount of power to offset some of the electricity used in its facility. In this case, Bloomberg is paying for the output of a solar farm rated at 2.9MW and linking that purchase to its New York data center which has a capacity of 7MW.  The solar farm is due to open near the end of 2016.

solar thinkstock
– Thinkstock

Buying sunshine

“Data centers consume enormous amounts of energy and that can mean sky-high energy bills, but solar can help companies rein in their energy costs,” said Steve Raeder, SunEdison’s regional general manager.

The program works through remote net metering, with Bloomberg paying for the output of a solar facility elsewhere in New York State.

That facility is rated at 2.9 MW, but that’s the peak capacity, and solar (as we said) is intermittent, varying by day and by season. SunEdison reckons that the solar farm plant will offset “more than five percent” of the data center’s electricity usage - in other words, the equivalent of 0.35MW of continuous power.

SunEdison delivers the usual sort of figures, saying this should save more than 11,600 tonnes tons over the period of the agreement — but doesn’t say how long that agreement is. 

“Bloomberg is constantly looking for opportunities to expand its portfolio of renewable energy projects that make good business sense–projects that reduce costs, diversify energy supply and have a positive environmental impact,” said Curtis Ravenel, Bloomberg’s global head of sustainable business and finance. “With this project, we’re projecting to save more than $2 million over the life of the agreement versus traditional utility prices, and it helps us reach our sustainability and climate goals.”

Bloomberg has three data centers, including the Orangetown facility which opened earlier this year. 

Other data center providers using PPAs to support renewable energy include Google, AppleAmazon and Facebook. Equinix signed a PPA with SunEdison for its California data centers, and HP signed one for wind power in Texas.