Data centers, how is their electrical supply ensured?

A stable energy supply becomes vital for the operation of data centers, which are essential for any online service

Data centers are one of those critical systems without which many current functions of our hyper-connected society would be impossible. These technological facilities serve as hosts for servers, networks, storage, and various other technological and computer equipment to provide digital services. These services include ensuring internet access, connectivity of different systems, or the storage and manipulation of millions of user data. As such, these systems require a reliable power supply to function seamlessly, avoiding data loss, downtime, and economic resource waste. Today, we will delve into how the electrical supply of these data centers is ensured and the elements responsible for this task.

energy supply solutions for data centers
Energy suppy solutions for data centers

It’s important to understand that a data center is connected to the local electrical grid, which serves as its primary source of energy. However, unlike many other elements connected to the grid, a crucial detail sets data centers apart: the electrical supply availability for a data center must be 99.9999% throughout the year. In other words, ensuring continuous power supply to data centers at all times to guarantee data flow is a requirement for the design of these data infrastructures. Therefore, the quality of the network itself and its power supply, distribution, protection, and energy storage systems will determine the viability of these centers and their service to end-users. This is where two fundamental parts of the data center power supply solutions come into play: transformer stations and the medium-voltage network. Let’s explore how they coexist.

How does the medium-voltage network and its elements function in a data center?

Transformer stations are joint technological solutions that transform high-voltage electrical energy into low-voltage, efficiently and safely distributing electricity. This is a process replicated in public, local, and private networks, such as data centers. Consequently, transformer stations play a crucial role in contributing to the near-perfect availability of electricity. To achieve this, transformer stations leverage their capabilities to serve different lines and connection points within data centers. Typically, a data center has at least a double connection point to more than one medium-voltage line, ensuring, thanks to the transformer stations, a continuous connection to at least one of them.

The significant role of these transformer stations is to provide electrical isolation between the network, with its potential voltage variations in case of failure, and the data center. This ensures a secure connection, protecting the entire installation from possible failures in the main network. This is where medium-voltage cells within the transformer stations come into play. These large switches cut and open the electrical connection in milliseconds, thanks to components like current sensors or self-powered units for protection against overcurrents.

In addition to this, the role of the medium-voltage network is crucial for ensuring the operation of each element at any given moment. Therefore, its configuration must take into account various factors and possibilities in the day-to-day operations of data centers, such as internal system failures or network outages. This necessitates designing these centers with a robust architecture of emergency solutions.

Overall, the medium-voltage network of the center must incorporate technological solutions with high levels of digitization, automation, and monitoring. This ensures that, in the event of a power outage, these different systems come into operation to continue guaranteeing the complex’s operation. In this way, all elements of automation and protection of the electrical network work together to ensure the service of data centers. A lifeline for your data.

A typical data center architecture consists of the following main parts:

Data centers architecture and energy supply
Data centers architecture and energy supply
  • IT Equipment: This is the brain of the data center and is primarily responsible for handling the computer data that these centers host and distribute. It includes servers, network infrastructure, routers, application delivery controllers, and data storage.
  • Cooling Elements: All computer equipment generates significant heat in its environment, necessitating cooling systems to ensure proper operation and prevent potential overheating and its consequences.
  • Electrical Supply: This comprises the set of elements that ensures the electrical supply of data centers and their energy availability. It is divided into three relevant subgroups:
  1. Connection to the electrical grid: This includes elements such as the electrical grid itself and its configuration, medium-voltage cells, transformer stations, etc.
  2. Energy storage systems: These systems ensure electrical connection in case of a total power outage, providing a lifeline to critical systems such as cooling, fire suppression and shutdown, physical and virtual security measures, etc.
  3. Diesel generators: These offer an alternative electrical connection in the event of a power outage.

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