Sustainable Electrical Solutions for Data Centers

Sustainable Electrical Solutions for Data Centers and key elements

Sustainable electrical solutions are emerging to ensure stable, efficient, and lower carbon footprint energy supply for data centers

We live in a hyper-connected society where instant data exchange has become as fundamental and unconscious as part of our daily lives. Instant messaging, online transactions and shopping, emails, work, secure internet browsing, or audiovisual consumption have become commonplace for 6 out of 10 people on this planet. However, all our daily activities leave a data footprint that, without adequate security and management, can be as dangerous as it is unstable. This is where data centers come in, whose function is to store and protect all our data (and that of many more individuals and entities), as well as ensure the availability of access to third-party data (websites, applications, etc.). This happens in facilities equipped with all the necessary technological support to ensure their availability for use 99.9999% of the time. These data centers naturally rely on a complex electrical grid to ensure that electrical supply is guaranteed at all times, regardless of any external problems to the installation. The proper functioning of this grid determines the availability of such a vast amount of data for end users.

The large amount of data we handle every day – it is estimated that in 2023 a total of 59 exabytes were exchanged, compared to 48 the previous year or 32 in 2020 during the pandemic – and the requirement for total availability of this data has made the data center sector a significant consumer of electrical energy and, therefore, an important generator of carbon footprint, with all that entails at all levels. Figures show that data centers consume nearly 200 TWh of energy per year, a figure expected to increase fifteenfold by 2030, making them responsible for 8% of global electricity consumption. Impressive, isn’t it?

Therefore, data centers are undergoing a complete transformation both in terms of service structure and electrical infrastructure. Whether existing facilities or future projects, major operators are increasingly considering the incorporation of sustainable electrical solutions to reduce the significant environmental footprint of this human activity and ensure its long-term sustainability. But what do we mean by sustainable electrical solutions for data centers? Let’s find out.

As you know, the electrical energy we consume is obtained from different sources – whether renewable or not – to be transported, transformed, and distributed through different phases until it reaches the points of consumption. In this great journey, which is far from linear and more like a giant spider web, energy flows through different grids and technological devices known as electrical switchgear, high-value technological elements that are also present in private electrical grids such as those of data centers and whose efficiency and operation guarantee that of the energy-demanding equipment they connect to.

Sustainable Electrical Solutions for Data Centers
A Ormazabal secondary distribution switchgear set for medium voltage connecting a TIER IV Data Center in Madrid

As such, and as seen in the infographic above, the configuration of a data center’s electrical system requires a series of electrical switchgear equipment such as secondary distribution switchgears, electrical transformers, low-voltage switchboards, protection and automation systems, uninterruptible power supplies, energy storage systems, or generators. The combination of all these elements in a complex electrical grid – to ensure energy supply even if the public distribution grid experiences an outage – makes it a very sensitive part of these facilities.

In addition to power generation itself, the type of technology used by this switchgear can help reduce the carbon footprint of a data center’s activity. This brings us to our protagonists today: sustainable electrical solutions for data centers.

Sustainable Electrical Solutions for the Data Center Market, What Are They?

The constructive and operational footprint of electrical solutions depends on the type of materials (both in terms of typology and lifecycle, recyclability…), technology (cutting through natural industrial air and/or fluorinated gases), operational capacity in overvoltages (allowing peaks above their nominal characteristics), and size (amount of surface and materials needed). Thus, electrical switchgear has developed two great allies to reduce the operational carbon footprint of data centers:

Fluorinated Gas-Free Distribution Switchgear

Electrical distribution switchgears- whose complexity and technological development make them a key element – could be defined as large current interrupters that cut off or allow the flow of electrical energy; protecting both the electrical equipment and the installation itself, in this case, the data center.

These switchgearsmostly use a cutting-edge technology based on fluorinated gases, widely used throughout the electrical industry as a dielectric solution to ensure safe use and handling of this equipment. This Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) technology has been fundamental for the industry for decades, guaranteeing both the safety of the electrical supply and grid operators, as well as the gas tightness and its recovery after the end of the product’s life cycle, and is now evolving towards a scenario where alternatives to SF6 must take over. The reason? To reduce the environmental impact of these solutions.

This is where insulation through the use of natural industrial air comes into play, a technology developed by Ormazabal, among other manufacturers, and which uses gases existing in the atmosphere to serve as insulation for distribution switchgears, eliminating the presence of moisture in the environment and ensuring proper insulation to avoid overvoltages or electric arcs.

Sustainable Electrical Solutions for Data Centers & Fluorinated Gas-Free Distribution Switchgear
The switchgear has revolutionized the sector by acting with integral fluorinated gas-free insulation based on natural industrial air.

What are its main advantages?

  • Natural Industrial Air: Naturally occurring gas with zero carbon footprint. Manufactured industrially with fully accessible components.
  • Minimum filling pressure: Both the tightness and behavior throughout the entire life cycle are fully known and tested.
  • Digital-native: Designed from the start with integrated sensing and automation.
  • Operation and exploitation: The innovative design of the switch-disconnector together with the proven vacuum interrupter technology makes equipment operation very straightforward.
  • Dimensions: Optimized dimensions to have a similar footprint.

Smart Liquid Dielectric Transformers:

The role of electrical transformers is to decrease the voltage coming from the medium to low voltage electrical grid, allowing it to be distributed by low-voltage switchboards for consumption in the data center. Thus, the advent of new smart transformers such as the from Ormazabal has been a game-changer for the sector.

Let’s see here the main advantages of liquid dielectric transformers:

  • They ensure greater installation safety thanks to:
    • Better performance under high loads
    • Greater resistance to heating
    • Greater durability and support for overloads and voltage transients

  • They reduce installation and maintenance costs:
    • They do not require protective enclosure
    • They achieve greater cooling without the need for accessories
    • They produce lower losses in service
    • Longer lifespan thanks to the replacement of liquid dielectric
    • Lower TCO (total cost of ownership)

  • They are unequivocally more sustainable:
    • Lower acoustic impact during use (lower induction level and insulation of the dielectric liquid)
    • Less possibility of being affected by adverse weather phenomena (floods, storms, etc.) thanks to lower environmental sensitivity
    • LCA (life cycle analysis) with less impact on the global warming potential category (carbon footprint)
    • Greater efficiency during the use phase, representing the main impact of LCA (90% of the total)
    • With load indexes higher than those considered in LCA, even better performance is shown thanks to their higher energy efficiency (lower losses)

Liquid dielectric transformers with smart functionalities have become versatile allies of data centers, shoring up issues related to installation safety, sustainability, and efficiency.
Liquid dielectric transformers with smart functionalities have become versatile allies of data centers, shoring up issues related to installation safety, sustainability, and efficiency.

Were you aware of this genuine revolution in electrical solutions for data centers?

Contact us to learn more about our customizable technological solutions:

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