Energy Resilient Data Centres to get power at lowest cost with maximum renewable penetration: Harry Harji

Energy Resilient Data Centres to get power at lowest cost with maximum renewable penetration: Harry Harji
Mar 2019 , by , in Interviews, Latest News

“Power is a complex subject in India due to centre and state regulations. Developers need partners familiar with helping clients develop a strategy to get power at lowest cost with maximum renewable penetration,” Harry Harji – Associate Vice President, Management Consulting, Black and Veatch, Asia.

Data centres consume significant amounts of electricity, which accounts for 40 per cent of their operating costs. To provide uninterrupted, reliable services data centres require uninterrupted, reliable sources of power. The largest energy requirement is for cooling. Data centres require a stable temperature consistent with ASHRAE guidelines and/or OEM operating temperatures. The high ambient temperatures and humidity in many Asian countries present a challenge and may preclude the use of mechanical systems such as adiabatic cooling in favour of more traditional mechanical systems such as chilled water.

Are renewable energy sources a reliable alternative for highly sensitive Data Centres?

Renewable energy sources can offer a viable alternative to power from the grid or onsite thermal power. The intermittent nature of renewable energy power sources such as wind and solar, however,necessitates energy storage technology, and smart distribution systems. It is also prudent to consider a mix of renewable energy sources rather than relying on one. Adopting smart distribution technology is essential to ensure that power is used, stored and deployed in the most efficient manner. The hybrid micro grid we are working for IL&FS Energy Development Company in Andhra Pradesh – 41 MW solar photovoltaic, wind, and battery storage – illustrates the sort of technologies that can be combined to create a renewable power supply for developments like data centres.

How did Facebook & Google set an example of adopting green energy source?

Facebook has fewer data centres and is primarily using renewable energy. Google, one of the largest data centre operators, ensures the company’s’ total purchase of energy from renewable sources exceedes the amount of electricity used. Google buys renewable energy credits to offset its carbon footprint, but does not actually build and use renewable resources for all of its data centres. Our most recent Asian project with Google, via Black & Veatch’s wholly-owned Diode Ventures subsidiary, is to develop a solar farm of up to 10 megawatt (MW), above the surface of local fish farm ponds in Tainan City. Also read

What are the vital considerations for Data Centres?

A reliable supply of high-quality water is vital for data centre cooling systems. A reliable water supply, of predictable quality, is also vital indirectly; because water is a vital component of most baseload power generation. High-speed low latency network connections and the low cost to move big data is as important as reliable power and available land for the data centre owner/operator. Connection to undersea fibre optic cable systems is also very important in a global digital economy. Selecting the optimal site for a data centre is critical based on the following criteria:

• Access to power, telecoms and water and potential symbiotic relationship between disparate industries, i.e. sharing common resources; importing recycled water; exporting heat.

• Tax incentives, regulatory requirements etc.

• Sufficient land for expansion

• Access to physical transport networks

• Access to sufficiently skill operational workforce

The potential to repurpose existing assets into data Centre developments is a further consideration.

In India, where power outages can present a challenge, data centres need power supply that is either entirely independent of the grid; or one that is able to supplement power from its own sources of power like a thermal power plant – usually gas, augmented by solar energy. Alternatively, data centres can generate power solely from renewable sources of energy combining that with energy storage systems and smart power distribution technology – in essence a micro grid.

For example, we are working with one client in India to evaluate the feasibility of repurposing a gas power plant site to a data centre campus. The growth forecast for India’s renewable sector The drive for renewable energy supports the government’s energy security goals. With up to 400 million Indians lacking a reliable energy supply, the country is planning major investments in its power generation and distribution infrastructure. India has a 175 GW target for renewable energy (100 GW solar, 60 GW wind and 15GW biogas and others) by 2022. Despite the significant strides in installed renewable energy capacity, coal will remain central to India’s baseload generation for the foreseeable future. About 60 per cent of India’s installed power capacity is coal-based. This is set to increase to 70 per cent in 2026, according to BMI Research.

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