Sustainable integration of data centers into regenerative energy grids

  Projekt Data Center Bild Copyright: © FCN-ESE

Project duration: 01.06.2022 to 31.03.2023

Client: E.ON SE

Project partners (consortium partners and associated partners): Institute for Energy Efficient Buildings and Indoor Climate (EBC)

Alongside data networks, data centers represent a basic infrastructure of digitalisation. Over the past ten years, data center infrastructures have been greatly expanded worldwide and in Germany. Despite significant increases in energy efficiency, the annual electricity demand of data centers in Germany has therefore risen by 60% to over 16 TWh between 2010 and 2020. It is expected that the number of data centers will continue to increase in the coming decade, and with it their energy and resource consumption. To meet this challenge, the European Commission has set a target for European data centers to be climate neutral by 2030. This poses some challenges for the construction and operation of data centers, especially in Germany, where fossil fuels still account for a high share of electricity generation. It is therefore necessary to investigate these challenges and also possible solutions for climate-neutral data centers and to examine a sensible integration into the electricity and heating grids and the use of alternative supply concepts.

In order to support the sustainable integration of data centers into the electricity and heating grids, this project will take different perspectives on the energy system of data centers and their integration into higher-level energy grids. For this purpose, the forecasts for the expansion of data centers and the expansion targets of the German Federal Government for renewable energies are compared with the EU Commission's target of achieving climate neutrality for data centers by 2030. Different variants with different technologies for the energy supply of data centers are defined and calculated at the local energy system level. The results are used as input for a higher-level electricity market model and a techno-economic analysis with the aim of determining the flexibility potential of data centers in Germany.

Methodologically, literature research will be conducted, exemplary optimisation calculations will be carried out under different, dynamic boundary conditions, the simultaneity between renewable energies in the power grid and the demand of data centers will be analysed and a superordinate market model will be further developed in order to generate different development scenarios. The sub-goals of the project are defined as follows:

  • Analyse the political framework conditions that will influence the sustainable integration of data centers into the energy grids in the coming years.
  • Determination of the status quo of the energy systems of data centers
  • Analysis of the supply of renewable energies in the power grid with regard to the requirements of data centers
  • Development of a concept for a "climate-neutral data center of the future" with special consideration of the flexibility of the energy supply and the optimal decoupling of waste heat under various boundary conditions
  • Electricity market modelling to quantify the economic potential of using the flexible electricity consumption of data centers to stabilise the electricity system and integrate surplus electricity from renewable energies
  • Creation of a potential map with low-temperature heating networks, renewable energy generation and fibre optic network routes to determine the location quality for sustainable data centers in Germany