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Deployment of Microsoft Natick off the coast of Scotland's Orkney Islands. Photo: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures

Microsoft recently announced a redeployment of their underwater data center, Project Natick, off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. To power the device, Microsoft has partnered with the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC), a marine energy testing center that hosts wave, tidal and ocean current devices at their grid-connected offshore berths.

Why it matters: This project marks the first time a commercial data center has been powered, at least in part, by marine renewable energy. It won't be the last.

Background: Many data centers rely on energy-intensive cooling systems to keep their servers at ideal operating temperatures, but this adds to the already expensive energy bill for these large, power-hungry facilities. By placing a data center underwater, Microsoft is hoping to limit these energy costs and take advantage of the shorter deployment time to the dense populations of coastal cities.

For marine energy developers, offshore data centers could present an opportunity to demonstrate their technologies. The marine energy devices EMEC is testing, in combination with local wind turbines and solar panels, already provide more than enough power to the islands’ grid, making it easy to accommodate Microsoft's 250 kW device.

The bottom line: Data centers consume a significant amount of electricity — 70 billion kWh in the U.S. in 2014. If data centers start moving offshore, it could create a unique market opening for marine renewable energy technologies such as offshore wind, wave and tidal. There is a ways to go before the offshore data center industry matures, but Microsoft clearly sees potential in the idea.

David Hume is a contractor supporting the marine renewable energy portfolio at the U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office and the founder of The Liquid Grid. The views expressed are his own.

Go deeper

5 mins ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspend the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

State Department orders evacuation of U.S. diplomats' families from Ukraine

From left, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Chargés d'Affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien during a meeting with Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The State Department will begin evacuating families and non-essential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv this week, according to a travel advisory published Sunday evening.

Why it matters: The move underscores U.S. fears that a Russian invasion could destabilize Ukraine and threaten embassy's ability to assist Americans.

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

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