Microsoft to leverage Azure cloud to accelerate renewable energy access

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Microsoft Corp. wants to encourage greater adoption of renewable energy sources, and it’s hoping to use its Azure cloud platform to make that possible.

Microsoft, which already set an example by using clean power in many of its own data centers, Thursday announced a couple of partnerships to further that goal, including one designed to enable “smart grids” that are able to incorporate multiple types of power sources.

The first partnership involves Agder Energi, a renewable energy producer, and Powel AS, which provides software solutions for the utilities industry. Both companies are based in Norway, and are teaming up with Microsoft to launch a pilot program that leverages Azure, PowerBI and the Azure IoT Hub to develop tools that will allow Agder Energi to better incorporate a wide range of energy systems.

“Renewable energy resources and advancements in intelligent cloud technology are driving a digital transformation of grid operations to explore new business models,” Kevin Dallas, corporate vice president at Microsoft IoT Business Development, said in a statement. “Enabling solutions like Agder’s will accelerate widespread renewable and distributed power generation. It’s a bright future for the utility industry and for a sustainable world.”

The collaboration is still at the experimental stage, but the companies said they’re hoping to eventually build systems capable of predicting demand and automatically balancing power grids in real-time. The project will be launched at one of Agder Energi’s substations, which sometimes spikes to 120 percent of its capacity.

The second partnership announced sees Microsoft ally itself with the Advanced Energy Economy trade association, which is one of the world’s major advocates of using renewable energy sources. The idea with this collaboration is to create what Microsoft calls a “predictive policy tool” that ensures greater transparency in the regulatory proceedings of energy issues. Microsoft itself is already a member of the AEE, along with other tech firms like Amazon Web Services, Apple, Facebook, Intel and Oracle.

Once again the idea is to leverage Azure. The tool will be powered by the Azure cloud’s machine learning capabilities and a platform called PowerSuite, which is the AEE’s online bill tracking software. The companies are hoping the new tool will be able to generate new insights into bills as they make their way through the legislative process, allowing users to adjust strategies to increase their chances of acceptance.

“We believe technology can play an important role in accelerating access to renewable energy,” Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft, said in a second statement. “Tools like PowerSuite provide valuable information and insights that are necessary to advance public policy that expands access to, and the affordability of, advanced energy.”

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