Innovations in Power Generation Roundtable: Data Center Industry Wants Renewables

ASHBURN, VA – At a recent CapRE event in mid-September, we had the pleasure of welcoming five data center insiders to a roundtable dialogue called Innovations in Data Center Powe r 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 third part of a transcription of this riveting discussion (be sure to check out Part 1 & Part 2 of this transcript).

Rory Spangler, Program Manager – Commercial & Industrial Energy Programs, Maryland Energy Administration:

For a number of years, data centers have been on the cutting edge. So we’re looking to industry leaders to develop the policy. To come to the state of Maryland and say, this is what we see as the future, to building in Maryland, and we want to support those industries and facilities by providing grants and incentives, you know, say Okay, let’s look at community micro grids. Is there an opportunity here to mix energy storage with combining heat and power with solar, to keep an operation running during the worst of time? And for, in the best of times, to have those be running in effective manor, providing power that is often times cheaper than what we can provide on the grid in Maryland. So our policy is really that we are here to be a helper, and not a hindrance. We are here to listen. And we want the industry to help us shape that policy.

Stan Blackwell, Director – Customer Service and Strategic Partnerships, Dominion Virginia Power:

I’m going to propose something. What the clean power plan would have done is impose upon all energy companies in the United States to go toward renewable sources or low carbon emissions. But I’ll tell you, that in service toward the VA data center industry, they are asking as an industry for renewable sources. Whether the federal government or local state government mandates that, the customers are demanding it. I can only speak for our company, but we are embarking on a mission to provide those solutions. We’re going to let the free market ride it out. So when it boils down, whether you want the free market or the mandate, we seem to be moving toward the free market approach. Our company is responding to that for customers.

Stan Blackwell, Dominion Virginia Power

Regarding natural disasters, you’ve got to develop a smart grid strategy. I was in North Carolina couple of years ago, and they have a state tax credit for renewables, as well as a federal tax credit. So if you built solar in NC, you basically had a 65% tax credit. What happened in our slice of NC that we serve is that we had more solar generation built than we had load. It was a very unique situation, so it was a real testament for us to say that we’ve got to figure out this smart grid technology in a very small area, and apply is broadly. So my point is that a smart grid will help you solve some of those natural disaster issues (not all of them), but a lot of them like Hurricane Sandy…