Data Centers and Microgrids Partner to Change Power Delivery, Efficiency, and Economics

July 29, 2020
This final entry from our special report series shows how data centers and microgrids work together to update forms of power delivery, ramp up efficiency and save money.

This final entry from our special report series shows how data centers and microgrids pair to update forms of power delivery, ramp up efficiency and save money. 

Get the full report.

In today’s connected world, a microgrid is a real technology making a real difference. These are the solutions that enable true energy-as-a-service designs, leveraging advanced data analytics to create predictive and prescriptive decisions around power delivery. Far beyond a simple generator, microgrids alleviate reliance on the grid, allow you to deliver much cleaner and reliable power, and remove the scare and risk of major outages.

Getting started on this journey is as simple as asking the leaders in the space what some of today’s most innovative use cases look like. In a range of verticals, microgrids are being deployed to serve many scenarios.

Here’s a specific example. Founded in 2006, Enchanted Rock builds, operates, and manages cost-effective resiliency microgrids that help companies efficiently manage the risk associated with electricity interruptions. In 2010, Enchanted Rock became the first in Texas to provide utility- grade backup power as a service.

And, in the same state, they helped revolutionize the way power was delivered to a primary university campus.

See the full report for a microgrid use case from the Texas A&M RELLIS campus. 

The company is responsible for the design, project management, installation, and commissioning of over 380 MW of distributed generation and over 160 microgrid sites. The company currently has 100 MW of customer resiliency microgrids under construction.

Enchanted Rock uses an alternative approach to data center backup with its natural gas microgrids, which support on-site backup power needs, power grid capacity, and energy and ancillary service opportunities. The dual-duty mission increases data center reliability, reduces operating and capital costs, and provides clean power locally and for the broader grid when compared to typical diesel installations. Enchanted Rock’s natural gas generators, like diesel generators, offer fast ramp time and transient performance, with the added benefits of a compact footprint with low noise levels. Additionally, microgrids, like Enchanted Rock’s, have significantly lower emissions than Tier 2 and even Tier 4f diesel generators. For example, Enchanted Rock’s zero-hour emission factor for nitrogen oxide is 4,000 times lower than Tier 2 diesel engines and 400 times cleaner than a Tier 4f diesel engine.

To further differentiate the way it delivers power, the Enchanted Rock solution, based on operating principles of the U.S. Nuclear Navy and NASA, runs its generators more frequently than only during power outages and testing. These frequent runs allow the generators to be tested continuously, which means a problem can be identified and solved before an emergency or a grid outage.

The generators are synchronously interconnected so they can provide grid support when local or regional conditions present opportunities for capacity and energy as well as ancillary services. In one wholesale market, the Enchanted Rock generators run an average of 400-800 hours per year. As part of their turnkey solution, they have a 24/7 secure microgrid network operations center (MNOC) that proactively monitors the activities of more than 160 active microgrid deployments. This level of data intelligence and aggregation allows Enchanted Rock to respond to power and security issues faster than anyone else.

To help you get started, see the full report for a high-level decision-making microgrid checklist to follow.

Modern Microgrids – Leveraging a Full Turnkey Solution

A significant innovation in microgrid solutions has been the intelligence the data can provide, coupled with some of the best microgrid-as-a-service options in the market. Working with a partner that can deliver on these solutions ensures you are working with people who have a lot of experience in the field and can also completely manage your microgrid architecture. This includes:

  • System Design and Engineering: Site evaluation, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering, architectures around the grid, synchronous and island mode
  • Construction and Commissioning: End to end EPC, complete project management, and full commissioning of the microgrid ecosystem
  • Finance: Ready access to capital, 10-to-20-year horizon, and — this one is important — Enchanted Rock wears all energy market risk
Final Thoughts and a Look into the Future

Working with reliable power solutions as well as improving overall data center economics is key to helping a business grow. Remember, very soon, we’re going to see an explosion around connectivity. Cities, hospitals, governments, and the edge will all influence the way we connect and conduct business in our daily lives.
A significant part of this will be leveraging reliable services to ensure uptime, resiliency, density, and cost awareness. This is precisely where microgrid technologies come in to help. Throughout this paper, we’ve discussed use cases ranging from Alcatraz to universities. And each of these use cases has seen benefits around power consumption and delivery, economics, and, most of all, their levels of resiliency. High impact events will continue to affect how power is delivered in a fragile grid. Microgrid deployments have specifically helped curb outages by providing continuous power during emergencies.

Still, to some, microgrids are new solutions that require further research. If you’re building an edge ecosystem or a primary data center, you need to see if a microgrid design is right for you. It might be a source of reliable and clean secondary energy. Or it might help you power an entire campus or edge environment.

The point is that you need to get started on that journey. A provider such as Enchanted Rock will give you an actual perspective on the industry as a real business partner and advisor. Enchanted Rock guides you through every consideration and requirement to ensure you have the right power solution in place. So, fill out that checklist and get to know your own use cases.

This Microgrid Special Report series previously covered the following topics: 

Download the full Microgrid Knowledge report, “How Microgrids are Changing the Paradigm on Data Center Power Delivery, Uptime, and Efficiency,” free of charge courtesy of Enchanted Rock to learn more about data centers and microgrids. Or listen to the discussion “Microgrid Myths: Busted,” a free webinar on data center microgrids.

About the Author

Bill Kleyman

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