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Houston energy resiliency company collaborates on carbon-neutral grid project for Microsoft data center

A carbon neutral data center back-up grid is coming soon to Microsoft — thanks to tech from a Houston company. Photo by Christina Morillo/Pexels

Microsoft is one step closer to its goals of being carbon negative by 2030 thanks to a new initiative involving a Houston energy company.

Houston-based Enchanted Rock has teamed up to provide its electrical resiliency-as-a-service and ultra-low-emission generators to Microsoft’s new data center in San Jose, California.

Along with Wisconsin-based U.S. Energy, a vertically integrated energy solutions provider, the partnership will procure renewable natural gas for the data center during grid outages and when California’s Base Interruptible Power is activated. Previously, Microsoft announced its plans for carbon neutrality by 2030.

“Enchanted Rock has always been committed to using the cleanest fuel available without compromising on reliability for our customers,” Thomas McAndrew, founder and CEO of Enchanted Rock, says in a news release. “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."

Enchanted Rock, founded in 2006, provides microgrid technology that use natural gas and renewable natural gas, providing for lower emissions and pollution than diesel generators. The company also provides a software platform, GraniteEcosystem, for users for constant management, analytics, and more.

The RNG for the will be delivered by U.S. Energy and sourced from diverted food waste. Per the release, the agreement allows for flexibility in the amount of RNG supplied, which is scheduled to begin being procured by early 2026, so that the initiative will meet its evolving standards for emissions reduction.

“Energy resilience is crucial with data centers like this one,” president of U.S. Energy, Mike Koel, says in the release. “Through our portfolio of 40 renewable natural gas projects, we’re able to ensure our customers have the supply needed to meet any additionality requirements. As we continue to grow our portfolio, our partnership with Enchanted Rock will help more organizations take that next step in their carbon reduction goals.”

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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