Ashburn Data Center Insiders: Energy Sector Facing Significant Challenges and Changes

ashburn data center insiders

ASHBURN, VA – At a recent CapRE event in mid-September, we had the pleasure of welcoming five Ashburn data center insiders to a roundtable discussion called Innovations in Data Center Power Generation, Reliability and Competitive Pricing. Among the topics of discussion were how the energy sector, on many levels, has changed markedly since Hurricane Sandy. Below is the first part in a series of articles containing a transcription of this riveting discussion.

Moderator Joseph Suppers, Owner, NodeCom, Inc: Ashburn Data Center Insiders Witnessing Unprecedented Events


Moderator Joseph Suppers, one of our Ashburn Data Center Insiders
Moderator Joseph Suppers, Nodecom, Inc

In the last 30 days, we have seen things that we haven’t seen in the last 100 years. It started off in the end of August, the solar eclipse. The first time in 100 years. Then, the Hurricanes — both Harvey and Irma. Then finally a 8.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico. And recently, there were some solar flares. And what’s interesting about the solar flares is that we haven’t seen one since…in fact, the last one was in 1859. It was the Carrington Effect. And so we are way overdue for a geomagnetic solar flares.

And so I’m bringing this up because of what has happened in the last thirty days, specifically the power outages we have seen in Florida and Houston. I think they remind us how important power is. Because we talk data center and we talk about the internet of things and we talk about things being at the edge. And they don’t work if there isn’t any power. So it kind of starts with policy. And I’m thinking back to Hurricane Sandy.

When Hurricane Sandy went through Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton went without power for 10 days. But being in the data center industry for the last twenty years, I knew all about redundancy. I had generators in my home – the only one in the neighborhood. I have extension cords going from my house to my neighbors’ to keep them going. Policy changes then came about as a result of Sandy though, and things started to change. So Richard, please talk about policy, and how Sandy, affected what is happening today in the energy field.

Richard S. Sweetser, Senior Advisor – CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships, U.S. Department of Energy: Clean Power Plan Scrapped, Future Unclear

Richard Sweetser, Ashburn Data Center Insiders
Richard Sweetser, Senior Advisor – CHP Technical Assistance Parternships, US D.O.E.

Before we get to Sandy, I just want to talk about policy for a second. Some of you may have noticed that there has been some changes in the white house since January. What that did for the energy field is put the clean power plan into the closet. That’s currently under litigation, but what it was going to do was put the electric utilities under the gun for carbon reduction. That no longer exists at this point, and that probably won’t exist anytime soon in this administration.

So that is a change – a significant change. There is a short-term budget that got passed last week, that basically says keep doing what you were doing last year, for three months. Then we’ll figure out what you’re really going to do. So we’re really kicking the can down the road. That’s what’s going on in the federal side.  Then the FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which controls wholesale electric providers, just got a new commissioner a few weeks ago. So we don’t know what’s going on there, and probably won’t for awhile.

Stay tuned for a continuation of this roundtable, where we will hear from Sweetser and Suppers, as well as three more Ashburn data center insiders.