If Vegas can do it, why can't your data center?
Nevada isn't exactly a renewable-friendly state, but that hasn't stopped the city government of Las Vegas from boasting that it is now getting 100 percent of its power from renewable sources. If a land-locked desert town in the middle of nowhere with a less-than-enthusiastic utility can manage it, why aren't you switched over yet?
To be fair, the city has been working to shift over to 100 percent renewable power for over a decade, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It took an expanded partnership (i.e., a power purchase commitment and threats to buy power elsewhere all together) with local utility, NV Energy, to completely make the shift.
The city is pulling renewable power through a combination of direct solar on site at properties around the area, solar arrays on roofs and the wastewater treatment plant, some kinetic panel generation for streetlight power, and a couple of NV Energy renewable facilities. By the end of 2017, the city will be able to draw power from the Hoover Dam -- OG Hydro, for sure -- to complement existing solar sources.
Image from: s.newsweek.com
Las Vegas' path to 100 percent renewable power officially started in 2008 with the implementation of energy-saving measures across the city and the deployment of solar arrays when there was an opportunity. Energy consumption has gone down by 30 percent -- that's operational expense on the bottom line, with an estimate of $5 million annual savings between self-generated power and reduced consumption.
NV Energy, for its part, notes it continues to decrease its need for coal -- currently at 8 percent of the utility's generation -- while 18 percent is renewable, and 74 percent natural gas. But while the organization supplies renewable energy to the city and other businesses at a slight mark up, several large local businesses have bailed out from buying power from NV Energy and will purchase it wholesale. Gaming companies (casinos) Wynn, MGM, and the Sands have gone to buying power wholesale, while Caesars and data center operator Switch have filed to do so.
By law, any Nevada business leaving the service of NV Energy is required to match the state renewable standard of 23 percent. MGM and others are moving in a fashion similar to the city, working on reducing energy consumption and installing solar where it makes sense. One pain point is any excess power cannot be exported (resold) to the utility thanks to onerous legislation that killed the solar panel business in the state. (I can see Tesla Powerwalls rolling out Reno and making a short highway trip south in the future).
Going off NV Energy as a supplier is not cheap, however. MGM is paying close to $87 million in departure fees to leave NV Energy and buy power on the wholesale market. Switch could pay up to $27 million in exit fees to leave, with the money to go to protect the investment in infrastructure made by the utility and ensuring the grid stays up for everyone else left on the utility.
Not everyone has the clout of the city of Las Vegas, or the bankroll of MGM, but your data center is less likely to face as many regulatory hurdles in moving more of your electrical consumption to renewable power. All the organizations cited above had a clear plan to both reduce energy consumption and secure more renewable power, reducing operational expenses in the process. If they can do it, where do you stand?