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Computer software giant Microsoft has signed up to buy the power from the 175 MW Pilot Hill Wind Project, located 60 miles southwest of Chicago. In addition, developer EDF Renewable Energy has acquired a 96% stake in the Illinois project from Orion Energy Group and Vision Energy.

Microsoft's newly inked 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) represents the company’s largest wind investment to date, following a November PPA with RES Americas for the 110 MW Keechi wind project in Texas. The tech company says it is committed to reducing its environmental footprint and becoming carbon neutral.

Pilot Hill will consist of GE and Vestas wind turbines, and the wind project is situated on the same electric grid that powers Microsoft’s Chicago-area data center. EDF says physical construction will commence shortly, with commercial operation anticipated during the first quarter of 2015.

“The Pilot Hill Wind Project is important to Microsoft because it helps solidify our commitment to taking significant action to shape our energy future by developing clean, low-cost sources to meet our energy needs,” says Brian Janous, director of energy strategy for Microsoft. “Microsoft is focused on transforming the energy supply chain for cloud services from the power plant to the chip. Long-term commitments like Pilot Hill help ensure a cleaner grid to supply energy to our data centers.”

Ryan Pfaff, executive vice president for EDF Renewable Energy, says the company is pleased to partner with Microsoft.

“The participation of companies like Microsoft in renewable energy generation projects points to a growing trend of ‘blue chip’ organizations taking charge of their energy destiny by procuring directly, with a focus on both reducing their carbon footprint and controlling long-term energy costs,” says Pfaff.

“It is encouraging to see leading corporations investing in the U.S. wind sector based not only on their desire to positively impact the environment, but also because it simply makes good business sense, as the cost of wind energy continues to decline, and with the support provided by the federal production tax credit (PTC).”

In fact, Microsoft has joined other big-name U.S. companies in the past to call on Congress for PTC extensions.







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