Sunday’s New York Times featured a lengthy article detailing the somewhat bumpy relationship Microsoft has had with the people and the utility of Quincy, Washington. Like Yahoo and others, Microsoft went to Washington for cheap electricity from the Columbia River. The major points of conflict have surrounded Microsoft’s willingness to burn off excess electricity rather than face fines for using too little power (towns instate these provisions for minimum power use because they have to build out the networks to provide a minimum of power), and the pollution related to Microsoft’s reliance on diesel generators, which has been a problem in Silicon Valley as well. The diesel generator issue reminds me of the problems that plague the developing world with diesel or worse, bunker fuel, being used for power generation, creating awful pollution. It’s getting to the point where grid level batteries should be considered for data center backup power generation or more likely, fuel cells, which run on natural gas and which Apple and eBay are now implementing. And which, as it turns out, Microsoft is considering.