The summer’s first major heat wave—breaking records with triple digit temperatures in New York and other cities up and down the East Coast—is a major test of the U.S. energy supply and distribution system at a time when energy demand is rapidly outpacing supply. Considering the impact on electric power grids and plants, Tishman Technologies Executive Vice President Ronald Bowman, an expert in alternative power, co-gen facilities, the national power grid, and the “greening” of data centers, says that it is more important than ever to conserve non-essential electricity and implement alternative energy systems to avoid major power outages and lessen the impact on our environment.
Bowman says, “With a shrinking energy supply and an increased energy demand, statistics indicate energy usage is projected to rise 50% by 2031 and 100% by 2050. Building data centers that consume less energy, as well as back-up facilities, is critical since an interruption in operations would be disastrous for companies and government agencies since they all rely on computer systems to run their operations.”
Only by investing in new energy projects while simultaneously reducing consumption can we avert the “economic, resource and ecological time bombs” just waiting to go off, says Bowman.
- “Self Help,” or moving portions of buildings’ electrical requirements to onsite—generated power and off the grid. Many utility companies will pay users to go off grid, and it costs users less to create energy than it does to pay for it because of rebates provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
- Aggressive investment in technologies that capture and use waste heat from traditional fossil-fuel-powered generating stations;
- Voluntary reductions in power consumption to save money and use less fossil fuel;
- Alternative power solutions, such as locating co-gen plants in large buildings and office complexes close to these consumers, and creating ice at night during off-peak times and using it during hot summer days; these approaches will help to decrease the strain on the energy grid.
It’s true that data center operators should be on the lookout for potential issues resulting from power grid failures or brownouts during heat waves, but these long-term solutions won’t necessarily help folks who have existing structures and need answers now. People who are concerned about grid issues now should follow the first line of defense – ensuring that their generator and battery plants are operating correctly.
For the longer term, people should look to concepts like Energy Logic to figure out how to reduce their energy needs while maintaining or increasing their level compute power. Also, data center operators really need to understand how the suggestions mentioned in this post would be utilized for the rest of the year. The latest technologies may make sense during brownouts or at times of grid stress, but if they don’t deliver cost effective power for the remainder of the year, there will never be a payback on the investment.
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