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Powering The Heartland: Embracing Renewable Energy In Midwest Data Centers

Powering The Heartland: Embracing Renewable Energy In Midwest Data Centers


The data center industry is expanding out of its traditional heartlands and into new areas, particularly the Midwest. The new data centers being built are designed to be as sustainable as possible. With that in mind, here is an overview of how data center operators are implementing renewable energy in Midwest data centers.

The rise of data centers in the Midwest

In the USA, the traditional heartlands of the data center sector have been California, New York, and Northern Virginia. Now, however, there is growing recognition of the need to expand beyond these areas. There are two key reasons why this expansion is necessary.

Latency: Modern applications and services are becoming increasingly demanding about response times. The further away data centers are from users, the longer it takes the data to travel between them and, hence, the slower the possible response time.

Risk: Concentrating data centers in just a few areas has the effect of concentrating risk in just a few areas. This leaves data center operators highly exposed to localized disruptions.

Expanding into the Midwest addresses both of these issues. Firstly, it puts data centers closer to important user bases (e.g. Chicago, Cleveland, and Minneapolis). Secondly, it allows data center operators to spread their risk. Moreover, the Midwest is particularly attractive from a security perspective as it is politically stable and has a temperate climate.

The data center sector’s need for power

Ensuring reliable and sustainable energy sources is paramount for the uninterrupted operation of data centers in the Midwest. As critical hubs for processing and storing vast amounts of digital information, data centers demand a constant and resilient power supply to maintain optimal performance and prevent costly downtime.

Traditional energy sources, such as fossil fuels, pose environmental concerns and are subject to price volatility, highlighting the need for alternative and sustainable solutions.

Embracing renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power offers data center operators the opportunity to reduce reliance on non-renewable resources, mitigate environmental impact, and achieve long-term energy security.

Moreover, integrating renewable energy technologies aligns with corporate sustainability goals, enhancing the resilience and reputation of data center facilities in the Midwest.

Options for implementing renewable energy in Midwest data centers

Currently, there are five main options for implementing renewable energy in Midwest data centers. These are solar, wind, water, geothermal, and biomass. Here is a brief guide to each of them.

Solar power

Implementing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on rooftops or in nearby solar farms allows data centers to harness energy from sunlight. Solar power systems convert sunlight into electricity through semiconductor materials, generating clean and renewable energy.

In the Midwest, solar energy can be particularly effective during sunny days, providing a reliable source of power for data center operations while reducing reliance on grid electricity.

Wind power

Utilizing wind turbines, either on-site or through off-site wind farms, enables data centers to tap into the kinetic energy of wind to generate electricity. Wind power systems consist of rotating blades connected to a generator, converting wind energy into electrical power.

The Midwest’s ample wind resources make it a prime location for wind energy production, offering data centers a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to traditional grid electricity.

Hydroelectric power

Leveraging hydroelectric generators powered by flowing water sources, such as rivers or streams, provides data centers with renewable energy derived from water’s kinetic energy. Hydroelectric power plants utilize turbines to convert the mechanical energy of moving water into electrical power, offering a reliable and continuous energy supply.

While the Midwest may not have extensive natural hydroelectric resources compared to other regions, localized opportunities for small-scale hydroelectric installations may still exist.

Geothermal energy

Harnessing geothermal heat from the Earth’s crust through geothermal heat pumps or power plants offers data centers a sustainable heating and cooling solution. Geothermal systems transfer heat between the ground and the data center facility, providing efficient climate control while minimizing energy consumption.

Although the Midwest may have limited access to high-temperature geothermal reservoirs, shallow ground-source heat pumps can still be viable options for achieving energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

Biomass energy

Utilizing organic waste materials, such as agricultural residues or wood pellets, as biomass fuel sources for on-site cogeneration or biomass boilers enables data centers to generate renewable heat and electricity. Biomass energy systems combust organic matter to produce steam or hot water, which can then drive turbines or heat exchangers to generate power or provide heating and cooling.

While biomass resources may be more abundant in rural areas of the Midwest, careful consideration of feedstock availability and sustainability is essential to ensure the environmental integrity of biomass energy initiatives.

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