Combined Heat and Power in data centres

Considerations and sustainability advantages of local primary power and conditioning

Blog by Keith Maclean-Martin, Technical Director, Piller UK

As a part of a stable holistic energy strategy data centres are being asked to consider different sustainability priorities such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP).

This is being seen in the context of providing greener cooling using heat exchangers, and through greater use of every type of energy produced through on-site generation, different energy storage options such as kinetic as an inertia store and shifting the use of existing and new assets from standby power to primary power.

With the sustainability agenda there is a strong possibility that more efficient use of power and waste heat through CHP may be mandated through planning regulations for future data centre developments.

Before any enforcement comes, data centre operators should also be aware that this could raise associated issues in terms of resiliency and risk management.

Regulations are expected to focus on how infrastructure efficiency and performance can be maximised. There are also expectations that it could lead to demands for deployment of new prime power infrastructure linked to microgrids.

Data centres may be asked to provide evidence that they have evaluated sustainable on-site primary power. This means finding ways to generate low or no carbon off grid power.

The ability to adapt on-site prime power generation that uses hydrogen and natural gas blend mixes is already available. The journey to higher hydrogen percentages provides greater flexibility to adapt to low and zero carbon generation and already there are Bergen Engines running in the field on a mix of 10% hydrogen and natural gas.

Existing UPS, energy storage and power generation are often viewed as performing a single function. That is, being available to step up in the event of a grid outage. However, UPSs provide continual conditioning and stabilisation. Kinetic flywheels act as an inertia store.

Engines used along with Piller’s UPS offer the balancing mechanisms to deliver the stable power needed while also providing the resilience and reliability required. The combined engine, IPCS (Integrated Power Conditioning and Stabilisation) and energy storage delivers the necessary back up while enhancing the functionality and performance.

Today data centres should stop thinking purely in terms of back up and standby but look to evaluate a combined solution for sustainable prime generation and delivery.

Greater use of infrastructure investment for stable prime power is about delivering the reliability needed and improving the performance – it can both deliver services to the grid and protect local assets.

CHP in industrial applications is not new. From a sustainability perspective for data centres, CHP sites perform better environmentally because once primary power natural gas is transformed there is much more energy captured and used at the site both in power and cooling terms.

Keith Maclean-Martin is Technical Director, Piller UK. He was speaking to an audience of data center experts at the Digital Infrastructure CXO event in London.

About Piller

Piller was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1909 by engineer Anton Piller. Employing around 1000 people worldwide, Piller is headquartered in Osterode, near Hanover, Germany, with subsidiaries across Europe, the Americas and Australasia. Piller is committed to creating a sustainable future in mission-critical power protection, and energy storage.

The Piller group is a wholly owned subsidiary of the multi-disciplined global UK engineering and industrial group, Langley Holdings plc and is part of Langley Holdings‘ Power Solutions division.

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