Published March 11, 2019 | Distributed Energy Magazine
Sean Morash, Consultant, EnerNex
Carsten Baumann, Schneider Electric
Data centers represent roughly 2% of US electricity usage. Because of the digitalization of the modern economy, the thirst for computer power—ultimately served by data centers—continues to grow. At the same time, electrical usage by other end-uses has remained relatively flat. Thus, data centers project to make up a larger portion of the overall electricity usage in the future. For the utilities who serve these customers with power, data centers were historically disinterested in participating in demand response opportunities. The industry is changing, however, and the recent maturation of approaches for designing a data center may lead to the large loads functioning as a more dynamic load. Within this article, we examine the potential of data center energy usage as a dynamic resource for grid operation, whether that’s as a demand response asset, an asset capable of shifting usage by time or geography, or simply recognizing the variability of load of data centers.
To fully understand the potential of demand response within data centers, a quick historical context is helpful.