Microsoft Silicon Valley Solar Electric System and Environmental Efforts


Microsoft Corp. is committed to protecting natural resources and reducing energy consumption. Since the company was founded 30 years ago, it has continued to implement new policies and procedures that focus on preserving the environment.

Maintaining an environmentally friendly campus has always been a priority for Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus (SVC). Even before it opened in 1999, the company began to explore innovative ways of developing an environmentally sound workplace.

Environmental measures at SVC have included the following:

  • Incorporated recycled materials throughout construction of campus buildings

  • Planted drought-tolerant landscaping to reduce water use

  • Reduced water use by reducing irrigation requirements through downsizing the parking lot groundcover landscaping

  • Reduced electricity consumption by 72,000 kW annually by reducing heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting during hours of operation

  • Modified water timing so watering is based on need instead of preset intervals

  • Replaced high-energy lighting with more energy-efficient lighting

  • Continued to maintain heating and cooling systems to operate at maximum efficiency

Solar Electric System

In the spring of 2006, SVC deployed a solar electric system.

The following are facts about Microsoft’s solar panel electric system:

  • Is the largest solar power system in Silicon Valley

  • Helps meet the company’s electricity needs, lower energy costs and reduce emissions

  • Generates 480 kW at peak capacity

  • Includes 2,288 solar panels

  • Covers 31,000 square feet

Benefits of the Solar Electric System

The installation of the SVC solar electric system will not only benefit the company, it will also offer vast benefits to the entire Silicon Valley area.

Some of the major benefits that come from the system include these:

  • Spares the environment from thousands of tons of harmful emissions that are major contributors to smog, acid rain and global warming

  • Produces zero emissions and is a 100 percent renewable source

  • Provides a 25-year warranty on power output

  • Protects roofs from UV and thermal degradation

  • Reduces Microsoft’s electrical load during peak demand times

  • Generates enough energy to power 500 homes

  • Reduces emissions equivalent to planting 1,000 trees, removing 800 cars or not driving 10 million miles on California’s roads

  • Reduces CO2 by 4,000 tons over 30 years

Microsoft’s Global Efforts

The SVC’s newly installed solar electric system is an example of the many innovative measures the company is adopting to actively protect natural resources.

Some of the company’s overall efforts include these:

  • Recycling and conservation. Microsoft has an extensive recycling and conservation program in place at its corporate headquarters that reduces waste and conserves resources at all the company’s facilities by recycling a daily average of 24 tons of material. The company also recycles old PCs, monitors, servers and other surplus hardware. In addition, Microsoft participates in programs throughout the world that refurbish thousands of PCs every year and donate them to schools and nongovernmental organizations.

  • Employee transit. Microsoft encourages its employees to take action in their daily lives through carpooling programs and alternative commuting choices. At many campuses, the company offers public transportation passes to its employees and helps arrange van and car pools. One of the most popular days at the SVC is the “bike to work day” where employees are encouraged to pedal their way to the office.

  • Environmental design. Software and hardware products are designed to comply with worldwide environmental regulations. Microsoft does not use heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, in packaging, and the company restricts the use of these substances in its hardware.

  • Vendor requirements. As a global company manufacturing all over the world, Microsoft requires that all vendors abide by the applicable environmental laws and follow good environmental practices that reflect the spirit of those laws.

  • Elimination of PVC. Microsoft’s most recent initiative is the elimination of PVC from the majority of Microsoft packaging. For a small group of products, clamshells containing PVC have been replaced with an alternative clamshell that uses polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic resin and a form of polyester, to provide anti-theft security. Based on historical software shipments, these recent measures will reduce PVC packaging over the next two years by over 1.6 million pounds.

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The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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