Solar Power in Data Center Design

By: Marc MacDonald, Mechanical Designer, Integrated Design Group

I recently read an article on why power generators are afraid of solar. I found it fascinating that so much energy can be generated with modern solar energy technology. It would be interesting to see the logistics and economics of providing supplemental solar power for a typical data center.

As a member of data center design firm, Integrated Design Group, it is important to stay on top of the world’s most innovative technology in the market today. Applying this type of outside, cutting-edge knowledge to our work helps us develop the right solutions for our clients.

Solar power has been around since the 1980’s and has been a leading technology in the green power revolution. Ideally this technology would be able to power all electrical requirements by harnessing the sun’s solar radiation. Sadly it has many obstacles to overcome to be seen as a viable energy source.

  • The panels only produce energy when the sun is present. No energy is produced at night or when there is a cloudy day. Energy is also limited depending on the sun rise and setting times dictated by the seasons. Because of this, solar power should only be used as a supplemental power source. Primary power must be provided by a more reliable source by either the utility or an on site power generator.
  • The technology comes at a premium and typically requires many years to produce a reasonable payback. These years will vary depending on equipment and powers costs and incentives in a given area. In today’s utility market solar power is being utilized by some power companies as “Green Power” but this is also purchased at a premium.
  • The panels themselves require a significant area to take in the sun’s light. Room and proper electrical infrastructure would have to be provided for the panels to operate. Given today’s real estate market it may be difficult to accommodate this design financially.

It would be optimal to operate without the use of fossil fuels but until technologies such as solar power, and storage systems are further developed we are confined to primary power from generators.

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