EU data centre consultants sound alarm over grid infrastructure resilience
Written by James Orme Fri 31 Jul 2020
Uptake of renewables also providing energy storage challenges that need to be addressed
More than half of data centre consultants in Europe are concerned about the capabilities of the local grid and energy infrastructure’s ability to meet current data centre demand.
That’s according to a new report from power and temperature solutions company Aggreko, which surveyed 700 data consultants who provide design, energy and engineering consultancy to data centre operators.
Aggreko conducted the report to gauge how the sector views the resiliency of the electricity grid, as hyperscale, edge and colocation data centre construction continues apace.
The data centre sector’s monumental growth shows no signs of slowing down and Aggreko said “doubts are being aired” across the continent about the ability of local electricity grids to cope with the increased energy demanded by facilities, raising fears that outages are set to increase.
Of those surveyed, 55 percent expressed concern about their local grid and energy infrastructure’s ability to meet current regional demands. France, Norway and Sweden expressed the most confidence in their energy infrastructure, but just 28 percent of UK respondents said the nation’s grid was “very able’ to meet current demand.
Given that respondents revealed power outages were the main causes of data centre downtime in Germany (64.4 percent), France (64 percent), Norway (66 percent), facilities cannot rely on grid infrastructure alone for energy provision, Aggreko said.
To that end, operators are easing reliance on local grid supply and readily adopting renewable energy technology. Aggreko’s survey shows that solar (70 percent) is the most common type of renewable technology implemented into data centre projects, followed by wind (65 percent) and battery storage (63 percent).
Constructors and operators are wrestling with a number of different challenges when it comes to adopting renewables for data centre applications.
Top of the list is energy storage (54 per cent), followed by difficulties keeping up to date with changing technology (51 percent), cost (45 percent), skills (42 percent), volatility / intermittent (35 percent) and flunctuation (34 per cent.)
“Energy storage, according to our research, is the biggest challenge facing the industry when adopting renewables. And so, with a decrease in backup generators, are data centres leaving themselves exposed? Perhaps,” wrote Aggreko.
“The answer potentially lies with battery storage, a technology that can enable data centres to harness the power of sustainable solutions whilst decreasing the risk to its operations through added resilience.”
Aggreko also asked respondents about the amount of renewable technology they expected to be utilised in new data centre projects over the next five years.
Across Europe as a whole and in most individual countries, respondents anticipated that 40 percent of data centre energy usage will come from renewable sources within the next five years.
“Grid limitations are still a concern for most regions surveyed,” said Aggreko. “However, the general trend towards adopting decentralised energy solutions appears to show the data centre market embracing renewable technologies like wind and solar. Not only will this reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but it will also ease reliance on the national grid – an infrastructure which, in many European countries, appears to be struggling to cope with the ever-increasing demand.”
Aggreko said national and local governments will play a vital role in enabling the sector to fully embrace renewables by keeping legislation and regulation up to date.
European data centre consultants have faith in their governments to make these regulations fit for purpose. 94 percent of respondents said they were confident their national government knows what is needed to update laws and regulations to enable the change to more renewable energy sources.
But on a national level, the UK (41 percent) and the Netherlands (26.47 percent) have the lowest confidence in their national governments’ ability to update outdated laws and regulations.
By comparison, more than half of respondents in France (52 percent) and Ireland (54 percent) were ‘very confident’ in their local government, compared to just 26.5 percent in the Netherlands and 38 percent in both the UK and Norway.
Written by James Orme Fri 31 Jul 2020