Microgrids can help data centre operators improve electric resilience, lower energy costs and achieve sustainability goals, according to an article sourced from Data Centre Frontier. This is Part 2 of a two-part series.

… Continued from Part 1.

With the scope of a proposed microgrid in hand, the next step for a data centre is implementation. Image supplied by <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/distribution-warehouse-building-interior-large-storage-area-with-goods-shelf_11451176.htm#query=distribution%20centre&position=4&from_view=search&track=ais">Image by aleksandarlittlewolf</a> on Freepik

With the scope of a proposed microgrid in hand, the next step for a data centre is implementation. Image supplied by Image by aleksandarlittlewolf on Freepik

Where to begin

The term ‘microgrid’ encompasses a wide array of technologies and solutions that can be intimidating or confusing to the uninitiated.

A microgrid is a resilient energy system that serves a discrete geographic footprint, such as a campus, medical complex, business centre or neighbourhood. In many ways, it is a mini version of the main electric grid.

The team at Microgrid Knowledge, in collaboration with Data Centre Frontier, has developed a three-part white paper series, described below, to help educate data centre operators as they explore microgrids to improve electric resilience, lower energy costs and achieve sustainability goals.

Part I: A compelling case for microgrids

There are a number of things that can malfunction within a data centre — from complex cooling systems going offline to basic human error. But a rising point of concern is the electric grid itself, which is getting steadily more expensive while becoming increasingly less reliable in the face of aging infrastructure and the worsening impacts of climate change.

The key piece of technology that makes a microgrid a microgrid is the controller — hardware and software that allows the microgrid to separate from the main grid during power outages and use its on-site generators to supply power to a data centre or campus of buildings. This means that when there is a power outage, the on-site system can take over automatically and keep everything running seamlessly until grid power can be restored.

Going beyond backup power to create an integrated microgrid system that improves both uptime and performance while reducing energy costs makes for a compelling case.

Part II: Develop a plan

While the overarching benefits of microgrids are clear, any business owner will want to understand how this applies to them and fits their particular set of needs.

Microgrids by nature are modular and adaptable, and the first step in developing a microgrid is to undertake a power and energy assessment. A data centre should assess both its energy and power needs. This will not only help size the microgrid, but also determine likely points of failure and pinpoint critical operations that must not lose power.

Microgrids can be designed to operate with different levels of resilience. Some ensure energy for an entire building or campus indefinitely, should the electric grid fail. Others are built to only protect critical infrastructure and enable safe shutdown procedures. These varying levels of integration, resilience and independence come with corresponding costs.

Part III: Bring the pieces together

With the scope of a proposed microgrid in hand, the next step for a data centre is implementation. The last part of the white paper series delves into the cost of a microgrid, financing and incentives, construction, testing and operations.

Depending on the microgrid’s complexity, moving from signing the paperwork to flipping the switch can take a few months to multiple years. Because microgrids are modular, installation can usually be done with limited inconvenience, if any, to a facility’s normal operations. Microgrids also can be integrated when a facility is first built.

The future of resilient data

Data centres seeking solutions for resilient energy infrastructure would be well served to consider the potential benefits and cost savings that microgrids can provide versus the traditional uninterruptible power supply and generator solutions.

The impacts of data centre outages quickly reach beyond the walls of the building and lack of power reliability doesn’t have to be the leading cause. With millions of dollars at risk and new threats to reliability emerging, microgrids can be key to the resilient data networks of the future.