Data centers open up great potential for increasing efficiency. Legislation in Germany stipulates that data centers must be operated in a sustainable and climate-neutral manner by 2027. This poses a major challenge for operators, because many do not know what the current status is and, above all, what energy-saving potential there is in their data center. There are over 50,000 such data centers in Germany. The number will continue to rise in the coming years, because the demand for computing and storage capacity is constantly increasing. A sustainable construction of a data center must therefore also start with the comprehensive planning of the electrical supply. Here, in cooperation with external partners, operators can make targeted optimizations to save energy. In this way, the operator not only meets the legal requirements, but can also significantly minimize operating costs. For example, energy can be saved simply by optimally arranging the individual electrotechnical components. This also includes well thought-out planning, in which engineering know-how and intelligent software solutions must be used.
"Reasonable electrical planning for data centers ensures high energy efficiency and significant CO₂ savings potential," emphasizes engineer Martin Vogt. The head of technology at the Cologne consulting and planning office High Knowledge, which as an innovative solution developer has specialized in sustainable data center planning with the goal of climate neutrality, has many years of experience in the planning and project management of data centers and the data center infrastructure. All components and aspects of the electrical supply of data centers must be precisely analyzed and planned. This begins with the use of an emergency diesel generator set and ends with the effective use of measurement technology. For many components, there is a large savings potential with well thought-out planning and efficient use. For example, the transformer converts the voltage from 20,000 volts down to 400 volts. This works via magnetism and requires a large amount of energy in this process, which is lost. Modern transformers, on the other hand, have reduced no-load and load losses, which means they are much more efficient. With efficiency-optimized transformers, up to 50 percent of power and energy can be saved because, for example, the load losses are exponentially related to the load. Emergency diesel generators also need at least 20 seconds before they reach full power. Modern UPS systems are much faster in use and thus ensure a secure power supply in the data center.
It all starts with well thought-out planning
"In order to operate a data center in a climate-neutral manner, new paths must be taken: Away from the still widespread lead battery towards new technologies such as super capacitors," demands Vogt. "But that also includes checking, analyzing and planning the system in detail." So it should be considered in advance how the waste heat can be used sensibly. Because all too often this is released unused into the atmosphere. Waste heat could be used sensibly to heat buildings. The legislature now even prescribes these framework conditions in its Energy Efficiency Act (EnEfG).
It is important that all components of the electrical supply in a data center are close together, because then the energy can be transmitted and used efficiently and without losses. If electrical energy is distributed over long cable runs, a lot of energy is lost. When current flows through a line, it encounters resistance. This not only reduces performance, it also generates heat - like with a heater. This waste heat "dissipates" and cannot be used to operate the data center. Therefore, several, shorter routes and an optimized route are often more sensible and energy-efficient. "A large main route may seem better and easier to plan at first glance, but it is ultimately inefficient," emphasizes Vogt. He calculates: "If, for example, 20 amperes are sent over two shorter routes, the loss is around 50% than if the same power is transmitted over a long route." This relatively simple physical relationship between electrical power, resistance and current is often not achieved taken into account.
Have everything in view
In addition, too little attention is paid to measurement technology in many cases. This must be structured in a meaningful and comprehensible manner. This means that the measured values must also be available regularly as an easily understandable report. This point must also be carefully considered in the planning. The operator of the data center must receive automated reports so that he is always informed about energy consumption and efficiency.
For a sustainable, electrotechnical supply of the data center, the parameters must be certain and answers to questions such as "How big will the data center be?" or "Exactly how much energy is required for this size?" must be found before construction. If something is incorrectly calculated and arranged during planning, these errors are difficult to correct later in operation.
The right tools for energy-efficient operation
For a successful planning of the electrotechnical supply z. B. High Knowledge offers the right tools. First, the energy balance is drawn up. For this purpose, all components used are arranged sensibly. Thanks to a software-based analysis, it is calculated exactly how much energy the IT or air-conditioning technology needs, for example. All individual energy consumptions in the data center are recorded and evaluated in detail. Then it can be determined exactly how big the transformer has to be, for example. The software arranges all components in a clear layout. With this modeling, all elements with short line connections can be set up intelligently.
The software used by High Knowledge carries out complex calculations for load and energy management. She accompanies the planners through the complex cycle of the entire project. “The first step is to set the course for the data center. All the required components are specified and the respective data is recorded exactly,” says Vogt, describing the procedure. In advance, the customer must specify exactly what size and performance he needs. A precise analysis is then carried out to determine which electrical bases exist at the site. Is it possible to get electricity from renewable sources like wind power? What types of energy are actually available? For example, it makes sense if the energy generator and data center are close to each other.
Engineer has the most important tools for planning and implementation
Once the first planning steps have been completed, the actual planning phase for the electrical supply begins. After the modelling, the detailed planning begins. This is where all the components are defined and designed according to both the technical specifications and the individual customer requirements. “Here, the engineer is the most important piece. They must evaluate and precisely interpret all of the data from the software. As a result, they – as a person – is still the most important tool in planning,” emphasizes Vogt. Thanks to comprehensive and sustainable electrical planning and implementation, data centers are prepared for the requirements of climate-neutral operation by 2027. The Cologne-based company offers an all-round service for this, from the planning of electrical supplies and efficient cooling to the turnkey handover of modular data centers or a micro data center.
Without an efficient electrical supply, a data center cannot meet the climate-neutral requirements of the legislator for operation. It is therefore advisable for operators to get external partners on board as early as the planning stage. In this way it is possible to arrange and select all relevant components in such a way that they work as energy-efficiently as possible. With the necessary tools - engineering competence and suitable software - these goals can be easily achieved.
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