Arizona Technology and Innovation: SRP Data Center Project

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Salt River Project is teaming with the data center firm Baselayer to come up with a way to provide reliable power to data centers. The project involves locating data centers near SRP power stations. Clint Poole, manager of Wireline Services at SRP Telecom, will discuss the SRP Data Centers.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation looks at a joint effort by Salt River Project and the high tech firm, base layer, to help grow the internet with reliable power while at the same time reduce the need for added power infrastructure. Here to talk about all this is clint poole, manager of wireline services at srp telecom. Good to have you here.

Clint Poole: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: I sounded like I knew what I was talking about in that introduction but I am going to ask you some basic questions, what is a data center and how is srp involved with them.

Clint Poole: So data centers are the buildings that power the internet. So, if you think about information being stored and processed when you go to the Smart-Phone or computer, it's occurring on servers that are inside of buildings, and these buildings are called data centers.

Ted Simons: Ok. What is a data station?

Clint Poole: So a data station, it's a concept that srp is working on, and it's -- srp's concept is, really explores and seeks out to solve some supply and demand challenges between the data center industry and the power utility. And a data station takes what is known as the modular data station, or center, which the base layer has pioneered, so base layer is a data center company that kind of solved this problem of the old building just isn't scaling fast enough for the internet industry, so they created mobile containerized data centers. And what that allows us to do is take the data center where the power load is, and move it to the key arteries on the transmission grid where the power is available and reliable and of good power quality.

Ted Simons: We're seeing, these are modular data centers, that base layer has developed, and you have found a way to work with base layer, this high tech firm, to move them where the grid is.

Clint Poole: Absolutely. The concept really came about because these data centers, you know, that consume a large amount of power, today it's estimated that they use 2% of all of the power used in the United States. By the year 2030, that could reach 20% of all of the power use in the United States. So, for utilities such as srp, delivering power to data centers in the traditional sense, that means growing the power grid, and growing the power grid is expensive, the project time lines are long. And it can create impact and disruption to the community. So, what we're attempting to solve is how do we support the growth of the data center industry on the internet, and without the need for grid expansion and keeping the disruption of the community to a minimum. That's by bringing the center to the power grid.

Ted Simons: When you say to the power grid, I would imagine closer to the power lines and closer to fiber optics, these sorts of things?

Clint Poole: Yeah. The power grid is a complex system, and as you move up, it's like a supply chain of electrons. You get up to the bulk transmission layer, which is the most reliable and carries the most amount of power. We're attempting to take those data centers and plug them into the bulk transmission layer of the power grid.

Ted Simons: Ok. And now, and again, you mentioned this earlier, but the concept of reliable power, that's huge for the high tech industry.

Clint Poole: Absolutely. To the extent that data centers require reliable power, today data centers, they are spending as much as 40% of the cost of construction on power reliability. So, that's generators and backup batteries, so if you can reduce or eliminate that need, then that's a substantial cost savings to the data center industry.

Ted Simons: Part of the attraction here is that the rate payers won't have to pay too much in terms of the expanding of the grid as you say, and is this because simply you are moving the mountains of Mohammed? Is that what you are doing?

Clint Poole: That's right, you are taking the need to the source. You are taking the data center power load to where it's available. Rather than the traditional way of doing it, which is building transmission lines to where the centers decide they want to go.

Ted Simons: Did the base layer, were they the first to come up with the idea, the modular data centers?

Clint Poole: They are the first to create the modular for this purpose. So we worked with them for this purpose of creating a modular data center, for the power station. Extremely innovative company, and, you know, and it does not hurt that they are right across the street. So, yeah, they -- absolutely.

Ted Simons: And as far as the combination, and getting this idea started and to fruition, and when does -- is it up and operational now?

Clint Poole: Right now we're working on a proof of concept. It is in construction right now, and it will be -- go live, quarter one in 2015, in the next few months.

Ted Simons: How many plan to be deployed?

Clint Poole: The modular proof of concept accommodates four modules and that's up to a megawatt of power.

Ted Simons: In one location. Will there be other locations?

Clint Poole: Absolutely. So the idea is to evaluate and test the proof of concept, and the data center industry, they have what's called a tier rating, and the institute puts out the tier rating, that rates data centers based on power reliability. But, that tier rating is based on how much generation capacity and how much battery banks do you have. So, by taking, taking the data center and applying it to the reliable power, you don't have the need. There is not a tier structure. We need a third party assessment for power reliability, and once we get that and we're able to demonstrate the power reliability, it is going to be commercialized, and we expect that to happen in this next year.

Ted Simons: You wonder, you have all these little spots now, and all of a sudden in different spots, and how many can be run at the same time? We worry you are overloading the system. But you're saying --

Clint Poole: That's right. That's what the bulk transmission system was built for.

Ted Simons: And as far as the future now, and as far as the impact on consumers, how can you be sure that this is going to cut costs or at least cut the increase in the costs at the future date.

Clint Poole: What we are trying to do is keep the costs down, and you do that by keeping your systems or your equipment or your assets down to a manageable cent. And this really gets to the the legacy of srp. Planning for tomorrow's needs today, and being the resource managers, and what we're doing is getting the best utilization out of the power grid to support the needs of the valley tomorrow, and so, we're able to keep costs down by not expanding the power grid.

Ted Simons: Are there are other players that could be involved in this at a later date, or is this specific to you in base layer?

Clint Poole: Well right now, we're the only one, the first of its type. We expect -- this is a common sense solution that solves problems for multiple industries, so we expect this will be replicated.

Ted Simons: Ok, so we look for the prototype here, within the next few months.

Clint Poole: That's correct.

Ted Simons: And we look for this being online, and operational within the next year.

Clint Poole: Within the next year, that's right.

Ted Simons: And we'll keep an eye on this.

Ted Simons: Very interesting stuff. Good to have you here and thanks for joining us.
Ted Simons: And Wednesday on Arizona Horizon, the state's clean election's director will talk about keeping politicians honest at a time when Arizona has been deemed the most corrupt state in the nation, and we'll hear about guidelines approved for school report cards to 5:30 and 10:00 on the next Arizona Horizon, and a reminder later on this evening now, our ask an expert on Veteran's issues will be seen here on eight Arizona PBS, your opportunity to call in and ask a panel of experts waiting there live for your phone calls on a variety of issues regarding Veterans and acclimating those Veterans back into the community. That's later on tonight here on eight. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: Arizona Horizon is made by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Clint Poole:Manager, Wireline Services at SRP Telecom;

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