New Tool for Data Center Operators to Increase Operational Reliability
Access to steady and reliable electricity is critical to a data center and all of its customers. The importance and reliability of power causes data centers to count on onsite backup power generation as well as careful operational protocols to maintain bullet-proof uptime that is not compromised by the potential loss of street power. Data center operators must take advantage of all the tools available to improve operational reliability, enabling them to be competitive and achieve “five nines” uptime. Data center operators and leadership are starting to look at adding a new power management program called demand response (DR) to their toolbox to help with the challenges of power management and optimization.
Through a demand response program, large power users such as data centers are actually paid to reduce demand on the electric grid for limited times, amounting to a few hours a year. When a DR “event” is called, data centers reduce their electric demand on the power grid by transferring their load onto their backup generators for a period of time ranging usually from a few minutes to a few hours. Demand response is growing rapidly in many states because it provides a faster, cleaner, more cost-effective alternative to building new fossil fuel-burning peaking power plants or costly transmission lines. Commercial institutional, and industrial power users across nearly every sector of the economy are eligible for demand response, however the benefits of demand response are particularly compelling for data centers.
Demand response offers data centers new visibility into the quality of street power. This visibility can provide advanced warning of imminent voltage fluctuations, brownouts, and blackouts and it enables data center operators to preemptively transfer to backup generation before street power quality drops or is lost completely. This preemptive transfer helps data centers avoid interruptions that erode uptime or damage equipment. Demand response also increases the likelihood that a data center facility is already on back up power when a brownout or blackout occurs.
The grid operator or utility pays thousands of dollars in annual payments for demand response. In effect, data centers can earn new revenue and enhance operational reliability at the same time. DR providers like EnerNOC also provide free energy management software that collects real-time energy consumption data that can help data center managers find ways to improve the efficiency of their facilities. Deployment of efficient practices and technologies can cut electricity consumption by 33 to 50 percent–escaped_anchor:6b478a87eeefd7fd4ddffb5bed2a41e3– and lead to additional bottom-line savings.
In addition to the financial and operational benefits, demand response provides data centers an opportunity to demonstrate leadership as a good corporate citizen in their community. Data centers are one of the largest groups of energy users in the country and can make a major contribution towards a stable electric grid.
Participating in demand response is straightforward and involves no capital investment. DR providers, such as Boston-based EnerNOC, work with data centers (or financial institutions, insurance companies and other data center users) to create a customized demand response plan that enables participation without compromising the operations of the business.
If you're interested in learning more, visit –escaped_anchor:b2b51da44b017e97b4f80b57cc6cbf22– for a free assessment to find out if you’re eligible to deploy demand response to help your business avoid grid emergencies.
 Pacific Gas and Electric, Leading Energy Efficiency in High Tech: PG&E’s Program & Service Portfolio, June 27, 2007