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As we build applications for global resiliency and failover capabilities in our technology infrastructures, all of us would like to achieve 100% availability in our electric plant design. Coupled with growing concerns about the stability and security of our power generation and distribution infrastructure, the cost of electricity will always be a critical component of data center operational expenses.
Traditional data center builds typically use one or more feeds from a major utility backed up by UPS/Batteries and Diesel generators. Modern alternatives are maturing fast and providing for alternative designs using gas turbine generators, fuel cells, and even nuclear power.
Gas Turbine Generators
A gas turbine generator is typically supplied by natural gas, propane or even diesel fuel. The natural gas distribution network within the United States is extremely resilient, fed by significant reserves and has the capability to reroute around pipeline failures. Backup fuel can be held onsite as liquid propane or even diesel. Once the generation capacity begins to exceed about 20MW (Megawatts) of electricity, the overall pricing per kwh (kilowatt-hour) generated by Gas Turbines begins to match or beat utility grid pricing.
- Reliable – N+2 meets Tier IV design objectives.
- Efficient – low cost / low maintenance.
- Flexible – flexible fuel sources, modular and scalable.
- Sustainable – natural gas and propane produce very low emissions.
- Low noise – can be deployed in highly populated urban areas.
- General Electric and Siemens are the leaders in this technology space with the lower end of the requirement starting in the tens of MW and scaling to thousands of MW at utility scale.
Fuel Cells are an extremely clean and efficient technology generating electricity via a chemical reaction using either natural gas or pure hydrogen. Pure hydrogen does not generate any emissions and natural gas produces much lower emissions than fossil fuel combustion. Overall, no combustion byproducts result from fuel cell reactions.
- Fuel cells are currently an expensive technology with generation costs running between $0.125-$0.135 per kwh for redundant configurations as of 2019. Prices are expected to decrease as the technology matures.
- Fuel cells require regular maintenance to maintain generation efficiency levels of around 65% and higher.
- Reliability is very high.
- Efficiency is the highest in the industry with only gas turbines competing at the utility level.
- Flexibility is very high with modular designs. Fuel cells cannot use as many fuel sources as turbines, however.
- Fuel cells produce 380V DC natively and feed right into data center 380V DC infrastructure further improving overall efficiency.
Contact VIMRO to learn more about integrating Microgrids into your data center infrastructure.