UTSA partners with Microsoft

Microsoft photo 2 resize

UTSA and Microsoft announced a three-year sustainable energy research and development pact on Wednesday, April 16. In addition, Microsoft will be donating $1 million to the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute at UTSA (SERI). Microsoft currently has one data center located in the Westover Hills neighborhood, and is investing $250 million to construct a new facility next to it.

The joint press conference was held in the Denman Room at UTSA. Mayor Julián Castro, Microsoft’s Director of Energy Strategy Brian Janous, UTSA President Ricardo Romo and UTSA’s Vice President for Research Dr. Mauli Agrawal spoke on behalf of the partnership.

The purpose of the pact is to include UTSA students and faculty in the research and development of energy efficient cloud technology. Dr. Romo believes students will directly benefit from the grants, scholarships and ‘cutting edge’ classroom technologies that will be provided by the extra resources. According to Microsoft’s Director of Energy Strategy, Brian Janous, “Students will work hand-in-hand with Microsoft researchers to look into new energy technologies such as micro-turbines to replace the diesel generators that are used during times of peak demand and grid outages.”

“Partnerships like this are at the nexus of two goals. They lift up the educational achievement of students and improve the economic development prospects of this city,” Castro explained. Speakers focused on helping San Antonio to become a frontrunner in a new and more environmentally conscious economy.

“We are on the cusp of a major shift in the energy sector. It’s not a question of if, but when and how,” stated Janous. “Fossil fuels will continue to be part of the economy. How we get more out of our fuels and reduce energy dependence is the issue. This is where technology plays a critical role.”

Technological developments made at UTSA could influence the design of future data centers across the nation. “We spend more on energy over the life of a data center than we do to build the data center itself,” said Janous. More and more companies are shifting towards “distributed energy generation,” in order to become more sustainable and cut energy expenses.

The program will provide computer science, engineering and natural science students an experience working with industry leaders on solutions for real world problems. The work done in laboratories helps prepare UTSA students for life after college and provides an opportunity to achieve great things while still in school.

“Undergraduate students are achieving remarkable things and receiving patents — not just faculty,” said Dr. Romo.

Microsoft opened its first San Antonio data center in 2009. The facility currently utilizes sustainable practices like wind energy and wastewater cooling. Microsoft currently has 75 employees at the data center, and the expansion will add 25 more jobs. Microsoft also does not offer internships in San Antonio. Job opportunities and internships for the company are concentrated in Seattle. Microsoft recently signed a twenty-year wind energy Power Purchase Agreement with Keechi Wind, a wind farm in central Texas. This could just be the beginning for Texas’ presence into the arena of green IT.