Yesterday on our blog we highlighted the people within Microsoft who are hacking sustainability to find new and innovative solutions to pressing environmental problems – from energy to e-waste to agriculture.
Microsoft is committed to fostering sustainable change both within our own organization and at scale across the globe. But it’s an effort that no one company can do alone.
This Earth Week, Microsoft is proud to highlight the work of our customers and partners who are transforming their businesses to thrive in a resource-constrained world. By improving their operational efficiency and investing in sustainability, they are ensuring their longevity by increasing their benefit to their communities and the planet.
Transforming the Way the World Uses Water
Water scarcity is a growing problem, and one that has the potential to impact every person in the world. The U.N. predicts that global demand for water will outstrip our existing supply by 40 percent by 2040. Insufficient access to clean water can also significantly disrupt business operations and growth, with manufacturing expected to use 400 percent more water by 2050 than they used at the turn of this century.
Ecolab partnered with Microsoft to apply cutting-edge technology to tackle this problem. Free, global, and built on the Azure Cloud, the Water Risk Monetizer (WRM) is industry’s first publicly available water risk analysis and financial modeling tool that translates water scarcity risks into financial terms, and enables businesses to factor current and future water risks into decision making. Armed with these insights, professionals can better inform decision making, develop locally relevant plans and drive investment in water saving measures – thereby benefitting the business and the communities where they operate.
At Microsoft, the WRM tool was used to assess the risk of our datacenter near San Antonio, TX and the insights we gained through the tool were impressive. The WRM output showed that the risk adjusted water risk to our business – that is the true cost and risk associated with our dependency on local water – represents 11 times the costs we pay for our water annually. In addition, it turns out that by better understanding our data, we were able to save over 70 percent of the potable water we were using at our datacenter. Armed with this data, Microsoft worked with Nalco, an Ecolab company, to develop a strategy where we now use recycled water and their technology.
Better Energy Management for Increased Savings
In a world where more and more utilities are offering time-of-day pricing and where an increasing percent of renewable energy is powering the grid, the strains on existing infrastructure is creating a wave of opportunity for companies and utilities to rethink their approach to energy use and management.
In order to help our customers improve the value that renewable energy can have for both their business and for the planet, we are working to help accelerate a transition to smarter grids around the world. Recently, Agder Energi, Powel and Microsoft created a solution, powered by Azure, PowerBI and Azure IoT Hub, that enables operators to better predict demand and engage distributed resources, like rooftop solar panels, electric vehicles and smart homes, when they are needed. This solution is not only improving grid reliability and efficiency, but is also reducing greenhouse gases and saving consumers money on their power bills. Other companies including Evergen, Steffes Corporation and Mesh Systems are also implementing advanced technologies to help save people money and get the most value from renewable sources. (Check out this Microsoft News Center article and Transform feature story to learn more.)
Achieving Optimal Harvests with Technology
Changing weather patterns and rising populations are posing a variety of challenges for farmers. At the same time, food production is consuming a large amount of resources and facing constant threats from weeds, diseases and insects. Microsoft’s partners are helping to address these problems, while also allowing farmers to generate better quality food, higher yields, and increased profits.
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) developed the Sowing Application to help farmers achieve optimal harvests by advising on the best time to sow. The app takes into account weather conditions, soil and other indicators, has transformed how small holder farmers tackle climate change to drive effective decision-making for their crops. (Read the Microsoft News feature story to learn more.) DunavNET has also developed a solution to help farmers generate better quality food, higher yields, and increased profits and British startup Growing Underground has forged a bold experiment in subterranean farming with technology.
Looking to the Future
From water to energy to agriculture, innovative digital solutions are being developed and implemented to address critical environmental challenges. There’s more work to be done, but Microsoft is excited by the solutions our partners are creating to ensure a more sustainable future for our industries, our communities and the planet.