DC Data Center

Overview

NextEnergy, Nextek Power Systems (Nextek) and Wayne State University (WSU) are collaborating to change the way we think about how electricity is delivered and consumed in power hungry data centers.

Launched in 2013 using a flexible “direct coupling” platform developed by Nextek, the NextEnergy direct current (DC) powered building was retrofitted to eliminate wasteful power conversions while prioritizing the use of renewable energy from solar panels. The organizations then teamed up to demonstrate that DC power can operate a data center more efficiently than traditional AC power by closely measuring energy consumption of like-equipment located side-by-side at NextEnergy.

The Work We Did

  • Coordinated with project collaborators to plan for the design of data center equipment needs including data acquisition and smart controls to support the research methodology
  • Provided the selection, permitting, and construction of a physical space in the NextEnergy Center Laboratory to showcase the demonstration in a secured environment
  • Worked with Merit Network (a Michigan non-profit leader for over 50 years in advanced networking and internet technologies) to provide secure, fast and reliable data flow between WSU and NextEnergy.
  • Showcased the demonstration as a way to further realize the benefits of DC technology for additional applications such as lighting

Outcomes

As of late 2016, the data collected has demonstrated up to 5% energy efficiency improvements using DC compared to AC power. This is a potential savings of up to $350M if you consider the $7B annual cost for electricity for US Data Centers. The completed work also validated the use of DC standards from the EMerge Alliance (an open industry association developing standards leading to the rapid adoption of DC power distribution in commercial buildings).

What’s Next

As a result of this study NextEnergy and our team have identified a need for further engineering work to improve the design, manufacturing and availability of DC power supplies for data center applications, especially when integrated with renewable power sources and advanced energy storage devices. Additional cybersecurity research and analysis is also needed to assess data center threats and mitigating controls with newer DC technologies and automated smart controls.

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