The benefits of on-site power generation
Data centers are essential to delivering many daily services that society relies on, including communications, energy systems, transport and health services. As more data centers are popping up across the globe, it’s critical to identify suitable locations to ensure optimal efficiency performance.
A critical factor in this decision is ensuring the site has an adequate electricity supply to power and cool its facilities, as data centers are large energy users and add significant electrical loads to existing electricity infrastructures. In some countries, systems are already operating near to full capacity, so new data centers place significant additional strain on the local and national electricity grid.
Although there are minor challenges to temporary gas generation, overall it offers a practical and reliable solution because gas generators can provide the power needed to enable new or expanding data centers to become operational – from construction and commissioning to their eventual day-to-day running – at least until electricity from the grid starts to flow.
Here are the pros and cons of gas-powered rental generation.
Data center operators have been using diesel generators as emergency backup/standby power at their sites for many years. Consequently, they’ve also used them to overcome grid supply challenges and help them bridge the power supply gap to get their new data servers online on time. However, continuously using diesel generation as a substitute for mains power over long periods of time is not cost-effective or sustainable.
Diesel generators are used for standby duty applications because they can accept significant load steps after a power outage, so they can be quickly brought online to take over from a site’s UPS system. However, diesel generators need a robust and often costly fuel management strategy, taking into account the logistical and safety issues surrounding regular refueling.
Diesel generators have long-term environmental implications as well. Many local governments or authorities will raise concerns about the long-term continuous use of diesel generation within built-up and densely populated areas, due to the harmful and damaging effects of NOx pollutants. Changes in building regulations and a tightening of planning controls mean that developers are expected to explore alternative options to minimize energy waste, greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
Additionally, using combined heat and power technology, waste heat from the cooling system of the generators’ engines could produce an additional electricity supply for the site. This process is more efficient and has lower greenhouse gas emissions than electricity coming from conventional power station generation. The waste heat could also be diverted for use with an absorption chiller unit to provide chilled water for use in the data center’s cooling systems.
Overall, gas is a cleaner energy source producing fewer emissions than diesel, so gas generation is more favorable than diesel for continuous operation.
Like diesel variants, gas generators effectively synchronize with the electricity grid, operating in parallel with the incoming electricity supply. This is achieved in the following ways: