Iron Mountain will pay for projects to produce new hydroelectric power generated from existing dams in the US.

The operator has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Rye Development, a US hydropower developer, to add generators to dams in Pennsylvania and West Virginia which currently have no capacity to generate electricity.

Iron Mountain is paying for an amount of power that could increase to 150MW over the next ten years, effectively a 24/7/365 supply of power for its data centers, contributing to its net-zero goals.

Explained: Everything data center operators need to know about Power Purchase Agreements

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– Rye Development

Dam PPA deals

Iron Mountain, like other operators, aims to match the emissions from its energy use. Earlier this year, the operator signed an agreement with US provider RPD Energy to purchase 24/7 carbon-free energy and provide it to its colocation customers. The operator did not give details of which geographies the RPD deal would serve.

“The normal 100 percent renewable [energy] claim that we’ve had in the past, and most companies have today, still leaves a lot of carbon on the grid,” Iron Mountain's director of energy and sustainability Chris Pennington said at the time. “Our customers can’t go and form their own utility agreement for power inside our site. They’re relying on us to provide it to them.”

Most renewable PPA deals are for new solar and wind capacity, which is intermittent in nature. Hydropower dams can provide more continuous power, but new dams are large projects with a bigger environmental impact.

There are more than 90,000 dams in the US built for flood control, irrigation, or navigation purposes that currently have no capacity to generate electricity. Rye plans to modernize these "untapped resources", and has identified a dozen low-impact projects where generators can be added to existing dams, without affecting their primary use.

The Iron Mountain PPA will add funding to speed development. This "run-of-river" development is also cheap, with a low lifecycle cost per kWh of energy generated.

Additional hydropower projects are accredited by the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, which ensures that they protect species, allow movement of fish, and do not impact water quality or recreation.

"When developed at scale, adding power generation to existing hydropower dams can be a cost-effective and fast way to green the grid," says the release. "With 10 low-impact, run-of-river projects in the pipeline, Rye Development is well positioned to help Iron Mountain meet its carbon-free goal."  

“As a data center operator, we are committed to matching local electricity use with local carbon-free power generation every hour, every day,” said Mark Kidd, Iron Mountain’s EVP & global general manager, Data Centers & Asset Lifecycle Management.

Iron Mountain has 21 data centers in North America, APAC, and Europe. In 2021, Iron Mountain said it intended to go carbon-free, and tracks its carbon hourly using a service from carbon accounting firm Cleartrace.

While a number of data centers are indirectly powered by hydroelectricity from plants on the same power grids, dedicated PPAs for them are rare. In Italy however, Aruba has previously acquired seven hydroelectric plants totaling 9.2MW to power its operations in Bergamo in Lombardy.

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