Plugged in: new docking station concept prepares grid to support data center technology

Plugged in: new docking station concept prepares grid to support data center technology

Data centers are the backbone of the modern economy. The worlds education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and government rely on them. They are also one of the largest consumers of electricity in the world, representing about two percent of all electricity use in the United States. This percentage doubles roughly every five years. That would mean by 2030, data centers could account for nearly twenty percent of all U.S. electricity use, according to an estimate by the Electric Power Research Institute.

Resulting from the high electricity demands of data centers, utilities and their operators are frequently required to build infrastructure to support them, such as expensive back-up generators and power lines that can significantly impact local communities. Electrical grid expansion could mean higher costs to customers, which is why utilities must analyze the impact that the consumption of Internet resources is having on business operations and come up with unique ways to address the issue.    

Salt River Project (SRP) is working with data center technology company, BASELAYER, to solve these issues. Together, we have developed a docking station concept that provides modular data centers direct access to the utility grid.

A new model

Typically, data centers connect to the grid further downstream from the power source. But the power supply is far more reliable, and of better quality, closer to where it is produced. So why not try to attach them directly to the electrical grid? That is exactly what SRP set out to do when we started working with BASELAYER as part of a pilot project for one of our customers.

BASELAYERs Edge line of modular data centers are designed specifically for outdoor deployment, enabling a more efficient use of the existing power grid infrastructure. Thats when we came up with the SRP DataStation docking concept with grid access. This allows the power load of the data center to be located on the grid, where sufficient power exists today to meet current and future data center growth requirements.

These locations are also engineered to deliver a high level of power quality and reliability. This helps remove the need for back-up generators and reduces the need for uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, which will lower the cost required to achieve data center grade power. Through the pilot program test phase, we anticipate that the solution will achieve "seven 9s" (99.99999 percent) of power reliability when configured with independent circuits.

Additionally, the combination of the BASELAYER modular data center and SRP DataStation aims to solve some of the time-to-market issues that the data center industry is currently facing. The combined solution eliminates the lead times associated with lengthy construction projects, which are typical within the industry.

Whats next?

The SRP DataStation pilot program is currently underway in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area with plans to expand the concept to other power facilities in our 2,900-square-mile service territorywhere critical resources such as power and communications are abundant and highly reliable. If the prototype performs as planned and the cost structure estimates are what we expect them to be, the solution could be available for commercial placement later this year and BASELAYER will begin to rollout the model to other utilities across the United States.

We think the SRP DataStations will play a critical role as a hub on the computing grid of the future. We have a long and rich history of forecasting community needs while planning for them today. Like the need for water and power, the future need for information could have a similar economic impact on not only the Phoenix area, but across the nation. As such, is worth evaluating and planning for, and to push the boundaries of where and how secure, sustainable data centers can be delivered to build a better future.

Source: intelligentutility

Smart Grid Bulletin March 2019

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