New Microgrid to Provide Resilience for a Houston Data Center and the Grid

May 23, 2024
The microgrid will be located at ViVaVerse Solutions’ ViVa Center in Houston, a mixed-use technology hub that will be home to a high-performance computing data center, more than 200 data labs and mission-critical infrastructure.

The construction of a new 17-MW microgrid for ViVaVerse Solutions, a colocation data center services provider, was announced this week.

Located at the former Compaq Computer/HPE headquarters in Houston, the more than 90-acre ViVa Center campus is being re-imagined as a mixed-use technology hub that will be home to a high-performance computing data center, more than 200 data labs and mission-critical infrastructure.

The natural gas-powered microgrid will be built and operated by RPower, a provider of prime and backup power solutions. RPower will manage the microgrid for ViVaVerse under a Resiliency-as-a-Service (RaaS) agreement, a business model that provides reliable electricity for a business should there be a grid outage.

Under this type of long-term service agreement, the RaaS developer installs, owns, operates and matains the microgrid so the customer can focus on their business, rather than the electricity powering their business. In return, the customer pays a flat monthly fee.

"We're pleased to partner with RPower on this groundbreaking initiative, which will propel both the high-performance computing infrastructure in Houston and the energy transition in Texas," said Eduardo Morales, CEO of ViVaVerse Solutions and Morales Capital Group.

More power needed to feed hungry data centers

Colocation data centers, like ViVa Center, are third parties that rent space to organizations for their computing hardware and storage devices. Also known as “colos,” operators are responsible for providing reliable power, cooling, bandwidth and security for the facilities, which have a more robust infrastructure than can typically be found in a company’s on-premises data center. 

Arguably one of the biggest challenges colos face in the coming years is power, or more specifically, not enough power.

The skyrocketing demand for artificial intelligence-driven technologies and high performance computing, which includes supercomputers as well as aggregated computer “clusters,” is creating an energy problem for the ages.

Significant amounts of electricity are needed not only to power the computers but also the cooling systems and other critical infrastructure in a data center.

The power gap facing the industry is sizable. In fact, Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2030 the U.S. could need to add as much as 47 GW of power generation capacity just to support new data centers coming online.

To ensure they have the power and the reliability they need, many data center operators are turning to both on- and off-grid microgrids. Not only do microgrids provide resilience, they can also reduce emissions, another major pain point for data centers. 

The RPower microgrid for ViVa Center will utilize natural gas generators.

“Our natural gas backup generation system delivers the same reliability and performance as traditional diesel systems, but with a 98% reduction in emissions,” said Jeff Starcher, CEO of RPower.

Microgrid will support local power grid

The ViVa Center microgrid is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year and when it comes online, it will do more than provide resilience to ViVaVerse’s campus operations.

Starcher added that the microgrid would further enable the state’s energy transition to a carbon free future.

The microgrid will also support the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market, providing additional capacity and ancillary services to the local grid and mitigating some of the volatility associated with renewable generation.

ERCOT, the grid operator for roughly 90% of the state, has significantly increased its integration of renewable energy in recent years. A 2023 study found that Texas generated more renewable energy than any other state – and nearly 55% more than California, which came in second.

“RPower's pioneering microgrid will not only deliver essential N+1 resiliency to our data center operations but will also contribute to the local community by supplying necessary capacity during peak demand periods when the electric grid is strained," Morales said.

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About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.