What do you need to know about electrical, power systems in data centers?
Will data centers get larger? More efficient? Use less energy? Learn about the trends here
Data center insights
- Electrical and power systems are key components to data centers.
- The complexity and power density of data centers require electrical engineers to deal with various products and systems.
- Bill Kosik, PE, CEM, BEMP, Senior Energy Engineer, DNV, Oak Park, Illinois
- Brian Rener, PE, LEED AP, Principal, Mission Critical Leader, SmithGroup, Chicago, Illinois
- Ameya Soparkar, Market Leader, Mission Critical, Affiliated Engineers Inc., Rockville, Maryland
- Robert Sty, PE, LEED AP, Vice President, HDR Inc., Phoenix, Arizona
What are some key differences in electrical, lighting and power systems you might incorporate in this kind of facility, compared to other projects?
Brian Rener: On higher density computation facilities or hyperscale facilities there is a need for extensive medium-voltage distribution systems not typically seen except on large campuses or health care sites.
Robert Sty: The amount of power density compared to other project types, the complexity of mission critical, uninterruptible power supply (UPS), standby and associated codes and standards.
How does your team work with the architect, owner’s rep and other project team members so the electrical/power systems are flexible and sustainable?
Robert Sty: Some of the most challenging problems are adding on future phases while the first phase of the data center is operational. If the original design did not incorporate methods for installing, testing and commissioning major electrical gear during the basis of design, then there is a risk of interruption of services during the construction of the latter phases. This takes coordination and should include all project stakeholders. Using BIM and virtual reality technologies can assist in the planning of adding major electrical equipment during operation.
Resilient or resiliency is a buzzword when discussing data centers. What are owners requesting to make the building meet resiliency goals? How are you designing data centers to be more resilient?
Bill Kosik: Depends on the type of data center: compute load, storage, on-site, mirroring. Determines time duration from beginning of utility failure to start of on-site power generation. Or maybe no on-site generation, just need time to shut down. Also, use of energy storage for cooling. The resiliency of the compute, storage and networking systems will inform the level of reliability for the systems. Defining resiliency is specific to the function of the data center and understanding the impact of different levels of reliability. This applies to multiple aspects of building structure, maintenance, geo-redundant.
Brian Rener: We are looking carefully at climate change models for the next 10-20 years. This includes design day temperatures which may be above current ASHRAE standards and for additional electrical reliability even if it’s not officially Uptime Institute Tier rated. Also wind and flooding levels. Clients are asking how to make the facilities resilient now and in the future for climate change.
Robert Sty: Balancing uptime with capital expenditures. The industry has matured enough to recognize some tried and true electrical architectures, each with own pros and cons. On-site power generation and sustainability at the grid scale are the next challenges we expect to face.