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August 21, 2023
Today's News from the Editors of Microgrid Knowledge

Data centers are becoming the circulatory system for global economic and information systems.

Frankly, we can’t function without them anymore, and they are evolving as fast or faster than our energy systems can keep up with. Data centers are getting bigger and hungrier.

The International Energy Agency has reported on the frenetic pace of that growth in statistical models going back more than a decade. While traditional data center energy demand is actually receding somewhat, hyperscale and cloud facilities are exploding in size and demand.

In 2010, non-hyperscale cloud data center demand for energy was at about 18 terawatt hours per year, and by 2022 had expanded nearly four-fold to 69 TWh, according to IEA. In the same period, hyperscale data centers went from 10 TWh to nearly 100 TWh.

That’s an untold bazillion bits of data and programming out there, crucial internet points that go well beyond the tabloid tell-all about Prince Harry and Megan. Bits and bytes are the lifeblood of the transactional world we live in on a global level. Data centers, which have consumed about 3% of the world’s power generation in the past, could need close to 4% by the decade’s end, at the same time that many energy planners are anticipating significant inroads being made on the road to net zero.

My story leading off today’s newsletter covers infrastructure developer Fidelis New Energy’s plans for a West Virginia complex combining data centers with natural gas, hydrogen power generation and renewable energy to supply them. The $5 billion project is intended to deliver low-carbon and sustainable data centers, with hydrogen being generated to deliver baseload, carbon-free power.

Microgrid Knowledge has long covered the challenges of meeting data center energy needs, from the dense footprint of facilities in Virginia and D.C. areas, to challenges all over the planet. Renewable and low-carbon microgrids are seen as true answers to balance the data-energy imbalance, while giving those centers an on-site energy solution far less problematic than purely fossil-fired generators.

Those untold bazillion bits, my little scientific term, need unknown future bazillion megawatts of power to supply them securely and locally. Companies such as Microsoft, Fidelis and others are keenly aware of this and are making plans for future on-site power supplies that bridge clean energy, efficiency and resiliency goals.

“There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003,” Google’s former Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt once said. “But that much information is now created every two days.”

Some have challenged the specifics of that grandiose quote, but the point is well taken. The gentle stream of data has become a torrent blowing right past flood stage to Ark-ready status. Energy and microgrids must be built to keep the Information Age afloat.

– Rod Walton, Microgrid Knowledge Managing Editor

By Rod Walton, Microgrid Knowledge
Once fully built out, the Mountaineer hydrogen production, data center and cloud facilities could reach 1,000 MW (1 GW) in capacity. The H2 infrastructure goal is producing 500 metric tons per day.
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