In this episode of DCD>Talks, filmed live at our DCD>Connect London event, we spoke to Ben Pritchard from critical power specialist AVK about the present and future of energy demand in the data center sector. Pritchard sums up the key capacity problem that is currently being faced:

“Everyone is seeing massive brick constraints and massive demand. But we're now seeing areas like the FLAP-D region, they've saturated the market from an energy point of view, and that's just becoming more and more of a thing for us.”

Moving forward, no conversation about power demand can omit the sea change towards sustainable sources, which Pritchard sees as a positive: “I think it's great that the markets now actually have to accept alternative energy solutions, and how that looks. That's quite a big step for the data center market. It's not going to be traditionally built with a grid connection, diesel engines, and UPS anymore. Now, real questions are being asked, because if they want to grow, they have to look at other things like energy as a service, which allows us to move the risk away a bit from the client.”

Although much vaunted as a solution for traditionally polluting diesel generators, it may be a pitstop, not the final destination: “We're backing hydro-treated vegetable oil (HVO), and we're seeing more and more availability come online. But I think it is an interim fuel for that technology. I don't think the market knows what the future is, and I think taking this step by step is probably the most important thing. We have to deal with the problem that we face now.”

Increasingly, businesses are looking towards generating their power through exploiting natural means, or with on-site turbines and microgrids. The problem is that these produce more power than a data center can use, even at full tilt: “The biggest issue is when you look at turbines and large, large reciprocating engines, there has to be some form of a scheme that allows you to step-load, and we're finding that that's done with batteries at the moment. Then that begs the question around the interface with UPS if you've already got battery storage. It is a full ecosystem that needs to be looked at when we're building microgrids, and how they relate to the data center itself.”

Does Pritchard, therefore, see microgrids as the future of the data center?

“I don't think microgrids are the answer for every single data center, I think you're gonna see a blend of microgrids and grid-constrained areas, but then you're also just gonna see traditional build data centers in those new areas. And I think AI opens up that opportunity.”

To hear more of AVK’s thoughts on the future of powering the world’s ever-increasing demand for data centers, and what their solutions are, check out the full DCD Talk here.