As the climate crisis rages on, we urgently need to decarbonize our data centres. We now need to look towards microgrids or campus-scale utilities networks using decentralized and decarbonated generation. Firstly, to guarantee the resilience of utilities serving the data centre and secondly, to future-proof the schemes that allow for the incorporation of zero-carbon generation, as new technologies and fuels come to market.

What are microgrids?

Microgrids are integrated utilities services networks, incorporating thermal and electrical distribution, cabling, control & monitoring and water services, as well as lighting and urban support systems including lighting, security, and electric vehicle (EV) charging.

The scale of these networks can range from a single large data centre to several buildings on a single site to a district-scale setup where several buildings are connected.

Why they are gaining traction

One of the advantages of an integrated utilities microgrid is that it can be monitored, controlled, and coordinated using one centralized control system. This system will also provide details of overall system efficiency logged to date under different conditions and, with the implementation of AI and machine learning, will continuously work to improve efficiency.

Another benefit of the microgrid is its ability to support local networks and communities by providing waste heat, zero carbon cooling and electricity to nearby consumers, as well as grid support services in the form of demand-side reduction and firm frequency response.

Next steps

The concept of an integrated utilities microgrid, where high-resilience heating, cooling and power are provided by an external services provider (and outsourced from the data centre itself) will be the most practical way for data centre operators and developers to:

For a deeper dive into this topic and other sustainable and economic solutions, discover more learnings on green energy supply with ENGIE.