Microgrid provider Enchanted Rock will buy renewable natural gas (RNG) made from food waste to help power a microgrid that provides resilience at a Microsoft data center in San Jose.

The gas-powered microgrid, announced in June 2022 will power the data center during outages, and also when California's Base Interruptible Power (BIP) protocol is invoked and the grid requests facilities to turn their power down.

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– Enchanted Rock

Last year's announcement promised the microgrid would use biogas injected into the gas pipes upstream of the facility. Today's announcement adds the detail that Enchanted Rock will buy that biogas from US Energy, an energy provider that works with alternative fuels and environmental credits.

Since the announcement, Enchanted Rock has told DCD that its contract with Microsoft specifies the microgrid will be completely zero carbon, because all gas consumed at the site will be matched to biogas injected into the gas grid.

US Energy will inject the biogas into the existing local natural gas pipeline network, so the microgrid will physically consume a mixture of natural fossil gas and biogas.

"The biogas is not blended with anything, rather, it is cleaned and conditioned to pipeline quality standards at the point of injection to the pipeline," US Energy told DCD. "The carbon score of the gas is determined based on the feedstocks used during gas production. Then, once the gas is injected into the commercial pipeline system, since it is a fungible system, we're able to match the consumption back to its point of origin through displacement (book and claim methodology)."

Microsoft and Enchanted Rock have pointed out that fuel cells operating on natural fossil gas already have 80 percent or more lower local emissions than diesel generators operating according to US Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) standards.

In a statement sent to DCD, Enchanted Rock says that it is experiencing a surge in demand from the data center sector which was at 50MW to 60MW a few years ago: "Now it is 10 times that, or larger."

Enchanted Rock attributes the surge to a combination of factor, specifically, the difficulty in getting grid power connections, or permits for diesel generators.

"There is a significant delay to get connected to the grid and data centers don't want to wait," says the statement.

On permitting, it says its solution is clean: "California has very strict rules but Enchanted Rock was still able to meet those requirements."

“Enchanted Rock has always been committed to using the cleanest fuel available without compromising on reliability for our customers,” said Thomas McAndrew, founder and CEO of Enchanted Rock. “After announcing our renewable natural gas solution in 2021 and this particular Microsoft data center project in 2022, we’re proud to be taking this important next step toward seeing this key technology in operation. We’re pleased to be partnering with US Energy and look forward to showcasing how RNG can be the new standard in providing carbon-neutral, dependable backup power.”

Enchanted Rock expects to begin procuring RNG from US Energy in early 2026.