Data centers that generate their own electricity on site benefit from advantages such as increased energy efficiency and maximum availability. While cost and resource availability are barriers to success, considering the advancement of technology in renewable energy generation, you should consider switching to on-site power supply.
Data centers around the world require more high-quality power than energy networks can provide. Fluctuations in the power supply can lead to prolonged downtime, and many data centers today rely on on-site power generation as the solution to this problem.
On-site power generation offers a multitude of advantages and disadvantages. To determine whether on-site power generation is right for your data center, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons.
Advantages of on-site power generation
Customers expect data centers to remain active and function properly at all times, which means that they must guarantee 24/7 availability. Traditionally, on-site power generation serves as an emergency backup that you can only rely on in the event of outages or natural disasters. If the grid fails, your data center can simply switch to the backup generator without any interruptions or downtime.
However, you can leverage on-site power generation to fully support data centers and completely replace the somewhat unpredictable power grid. This approach leads to increased reliability and stability, higher power quality, improved energy efficiency and greater environmental compatibility.
Energy networks are susceptible to frequency fluctuations. If you work with sensitive devices that require balanced and stable environmental conditions, you must avoid such fluctuations as far as possible. With on-site power generation, you have more control over your energy supply and ensure more consistency and availability. Other energy network requirements also have less of an impact on your data center.
On-site power generation offers you improved energy density and reduced transmission line losses, as well as reduced conversion losses. Alternating current is often converted to direct current and vice versa several times on the way from the grid to your IT equipment, which can lead to a power failure. As a result, you end up paying for energy that you don't actually use. With on-site power generation, you can generate alternating or direct current on site to feed your equivalent devices directly. This increases your power quality and energy efficiency, which in turn lowers your operating costs.
Environmental stability depends on the type of power generation you use, but relocating your power generation locally results in lower demand on the local power grid, which helps shift global power supplies to renewable and more sustainable options. Utilities, outside energy companies and other organizations can feel the pressure to follow suit and reduce their own carbon footprint.
Disadvantages of generating electricity on site
Data centers have to overcome several hurdles when converting to an on-site power supply. Upfront investments in on-site energy are often the biggest hurdle for businesses. Moving electricity on-site costs a lot of money and resources in the short term, but the benefits of on-site power generation pay off quickly, especially if you use renewable energy. The price of fuel fluctuates from year to year and can make long-term planning difficult, but with a renewable source you will know exactly how much energy is and can extrapolate the cost as it grows over time.
As data centers grow, the energy infrastructure must be expanded accordingly. For those who rely on existing network infrastructure, this becomes a problem as demand can eventually exceed network capacity and lead to instability. On-site power generation is moving this problem away from the grid and towards the data center, which creates a number of separate challenges. Some data centers use modular power systems that allow easy expansion and addition of their own microgrids, but due to their limited availability, you may have difficulty locating such systems. Plan to invest a lot of time and effort planning and scaling energy capacity.
In addition, local market supply and monopolies can in many cases restrict access to renewable energy sources for data centers. You may have difficulty switching to a single renewable resource for all of your electricity generation. Consider implementing a combination of sources like hydropower and solar power and newer, lower-impact technologies like fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries to begin your renewable energy transition locally.