Power and renewables

What are the challenges and solutions for utilities and customers on data centers?

Data science consulting for industry from DNV GL

For almost a year, I’ve been writing about the dynamics surrounding data centers: what they are, how they work, the power they consume, how to control that power consumption cost– and the challenges faced by both operators and utilities.

On August 1st, I’ll be providing a high-level review of some of this material in a special webinar designed for utilities and your customers, but with a renewed emphasis on those challenges.

What are the challenges and solutions for utilities and customers on data centers?

I’ll be providing a more in-depth look at the best practices data center operators in your territory can employ to control and balance power demands against the demands of an evolving technology. This means looking at areas of air management, cooling systems, electrical systems, electrical use and the use of waste heat – and how to benchmark and then measure the effectiveness of steps they can take to control their energy costs. I’ll explore how you, as their utility, can help those data center operators meet market and technology demands by not only designing financial incentives for energy efficiency (EE) adoption, but also partnering to ensure that their power needs are met today and into the future. This means looking at areas of EE standards, equipment, operations and the integration of data centers into the power grid.

What are the challenges and solutions for utilities and customers on data centers?

Whether a business operates a massive “cloud” co-location site or a closet server room running a local area network (LAN), fundamental needs are identical: uninterrupted power, cooling and room for growth – both physically and technologically. The only difference is the scale of those needs: server closets may not have quite the same infrastructure or require the same level of cooling and power requirements as a co-location facility, but the principles are the same.

For example, as I’ve written in an earlier blog, be it a small closet or a cavernous data center, when you put several computers together in one place, there’s a lot of generated heat that needs to be dissipated or at least mitigated. How you do that does depend on size: A closet server may only need an air-conditioned space to keep things running smoothly – whereas a data center needs to explore the entire range of airflow management: creating hot and cold aisles, rigid enclosures, strip curtains and installing an air-side economizer.

That’s where a utility can help: by providing guidance and incentives to operators, you can drive adoption of methods and technologies that can dissipate – and, in some instances, capture and re-use – that heat.

Already, the industry has responded to these kinds of differences: late last year, ASHRAE published its new performance-based standard – 90.4P-2016 – that establishes the minimum energy efficiency requirements for data centers. This new standard spells out the energy-efficiency criteria data center designers must meet and details how to perform calculations that demonstrate compliance. It also contains recommendations for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of data centers, and focuses on the use of both on-site and off-site renewable energy. As a utility, have you integrated this standard into your commercial and industrial EE incentive program? Are you requiring data center operators, follow this standard as they design a new – or increase the size of an existing data center that will impact your grid?

Again, I cordially invite you to me on August 1st to join me on a webinar where we will explore how utilities can help data centers achieve their goals.

Post Script: DNV and Data Centers

John Greco is a 20-year computer and energy engineer and is a D.O.E. Certified Data Center Energy Practitioner, Certified Energy Manager, Certified Measurement and Verification Professional, Certified AEE Building Sustainable Energy Technician Trainer and Certified Lighting Energy Technician, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from the State College of New York.

DNV has successfully designed and implemented data center energy efficiency (EE) projects on behalf of our utility clients for nearly a decade. Our team has significant experience on both new construction and retrofit data center EE projects, from small server closets to co-lo facilities. We work through the entire cycle of project identification, justification, and evaluation, and follow this up with detailed engineering analysis and post-installation review, assuring that the promise of a data center EE project is fully realized. Our team also is available to work directly with enterprise-wide data center operators to assist them in company-wide energy efficiency initiatives. To learn more, visit our knowledge hub.