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article imageReal-time power plant emissions data using Microsoft Cloud

By Karen Graham     Aug 10, 2017 in Technology
Even though it has become easier for corporate energy buyers to source clean, renewable energy based on emissions data, the process remains convoluted. Microsoft has come up with a demonstration service using the company's Azure Cloud resources.
It has often been a difficult task for sustainability teams to gather data on emissions and the financial data needed to support their plans. According to a 2016 survey by PwC, more than 60 percent of corporate buyers say they are looking at advanced metering and energy management software to make the task of gathering data easier.
However, according to Green Biz, Microsoft has come up with a new option and is testing it in a number of markets across the United States. The demonstration service is available to any organization using the company's Azure Cloud resources and specifically addresses one of the most difficult challenges companies face when trying to get data on emissions generated by the operating footprint.
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Getting real-time emissions data
More often than not, data on carbon dioxide, sulfur, and other atmospheric-polluting gases is issued as an annual average that is used to calculate the impact the emissions have on a company's carbon footprint. This data is then used to calculate long-term sustainability goals.
However, this annual average is not very accurate. "That’s a pretty blunt instrument, especially when talking about the way people are buying power now," said Rob Bernard, chief environment strategist for Microsoft. "People are getting much more nuanced to carbon and energy-related goals. The tools that they have to meet those goals might not be sufficient."
This is where Microsoft's new Smart Energy Azure Demonstration platform enters the picture.
Screen grab from the Smart Energy Azure Demonstration platform video accompanying article.
Screen grab from the Smart Energy Azure Demonstration platform video accompanying article.
Smart Energy Azure Demonstration platform
The Microsoft platform promises to update data on emission-impacts of power loads every five minutes. The platform builds on technology developed by WattTime which recently became a non-profit subsidiary of the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The system calculates the emission impact of specific energy producers, based on data generated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s continuous monitoring system. That calculated data is then in turn correlated with data from power grid operators. All this data is "open" and is part of OASIS, the energy market exchange organization, according to Gavin McCormick, co-founder and executive director of WattTime.
"One of the things that we are really excited about is that it is increasingly possible to measure the impact of shifting energy from one plant to another," he said.
And even though the WattTime service was originally developed for residential power consumers, Microsoft's application expands the platform's ability to access emissions data to help companies evaluate their carbon-footprint, as well. The "toolkit" to try this out, along with the steps for setting up a dashboard, was released into the open source world on Github.
"We see both individuals and companies that want more control over how their power usage affects emissions," McCormick said. "It’s hard to think of any other product where you literally have no say in what the company is going to provide you. You historically have had no control over the power plant that provides it."
Testing grounds
One testing location for the WattTime service was Princeton University. The University gauges whether to use energy from the Princeton Energy Plant, local power plants in New Jersey and solar arrays, based on price, supply and carbon emissions. While they were previously relying on outdated emissions data to determine the carbon incurred by each energy source, the new Microsoft service allows them to consider the C02 component in much more detail, helping Princeton reach its goal of reducing its carbon footprint to 1990 levels by 2020.
More about Microsoft, Emissions, WattTime, realtime data, Azure Cloud resources
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