The two new data centers that Microsoft Corp. plans to build in South Africa will one day provide cloud computing services to the entire African continent. The power they use, however, will be generated and consumed entirely within South Africa’s grid. While a decade ago that would have meant buying electricity from the utility regardless of generation source, Microsoft today expects to have a variety of options. Given its commitment to renewable energy, the company may prefer to use wind and solar energy. But in South Africa, that power might not end up being entirely clean.
Many big companies — and big purchasers of power, such as the U.S. Department of Defense — are choosing renewables. Since 2008, the top 10 buyers of zero-carbon power alone have created billions of dollars’ worth of long-term demand for wind and solar power, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has seen. Of those companies, five are American technology companies with their own data centers, and one (Equinix) is an American data center operator