Data Centers Trading In Energy Markets

from the energy-ain't-cheap dept

Earlier this month, Google filed a request to trade in the electricity market with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Given Google’s enormous power requirements for its data centers, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the company would want to have a bit more control over its energy consumption. Other energy-intensive companies, such as Safeway and Alcoa, already have FERC approval to trade in electricity. The benefits for these other firms include: greater power reliability, costs savings against energy price volatility, and flexibility to sell back excess energy to the grid. So it’s not a stretch to think that Google would have similar benefits — but there’s the added speculation that Google might take greater advantage of energy-trading capabilities given the vast amount of information that the search giant processes every day.

So at what point should a data center start to consider jumping into the energy-trading markets? Using Google as a model, the search giant seems to be planning for a future where one of its data centers could consume about 1,000 Gigawatt-hours of electricity per year. A back of the envelope calculation on Google’s energy use per query puts its current usage in the range of hundreds of Gigawatt-hours of energy used in a year (give or take an order of magnitude) — which is just for its search engine, not its YouTube, Gmail or other web services. Obviously, the overwhelming majority of data centers do not have this kind of power requirement, but collectively, many large data centers could see their energy usage growing where more and more data center operations might want to become energy traders as well. Will we see more data centers with a license to trade electricity? Do you think such a trend could create Enron-like trouble? Let us know in the comments.

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