Switch data center goes green

A birds-eye view of the former Steelcase pyramid in Gaines Township. (Jan. 8, 2016)

GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s kind of of like the checklist you make when you move into a new home; one item near the top of that list is to call the power company to make sure the electricity is turned on.

That’s what Switch, the Nevada-based cloud service provider has done as it gets ready to move their eastern U.S. hub into the former Steelcase pyramid.

“It’s a new industry. It’s very innovative. And I think it’s great for the state of Michigan,” said Roger Morgenstern, the senior public information director at Consumers Energy.

>>PHOTOS: Inside Switch

Morgenstern said the utility has been working with Switch to make sure not only that the grid can handle the demands of all the servers, but also to ensure the power is 100 percent renewable.

“It is more of a thing on paper,” Morgenstern said. “There won’t be a dedicated line to a wind farm to Switch. It’s a matter of setting aside this amount of energy. I don’t have the specifics, but a data center like Switch which requires a significant amount of energy. So we’ll set aside the energy they need and make sure it’s 100 percent renewable.”

Switch has joined a movement of large, renewable energy buyers hoping to spur more green energy production.

The benefits of renewable energy are obvious. But there is a flip side; right now it’s more expensive to produce than power from non-renewable sources.

Could the increased demand for green energy drive up rates for the rest of us?

Morgenstern said it couldn’t, pointing to signs of a leveling off between those costs.

“We are seeing our renewable energy costs continue to decrease,” Morgenstern said. “We’re finding that advances in technology are making this form of generation less expensive, more economical for our customers.”

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