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Not All Doom and Gloom: How Energy-Intensive and Temporally Flexible Data Center Applications May Actually Promote Renewable Energy Sources

: Fridgen, G.; Körner, M.-F.; Walters, S.; Weibelzahl, M.

Volltext ()

Business & information systems engineering 63 (2021), Nr.3, S.243-256
ISSN: 1867-0202
ISSN: 0937-6429
ISSN: 2363-7005
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer FIT ()

To achieve a sustainable energy system, a further increase in electricity generation from renewable energy sources (RES) is imperative. However, the development and implementation of RES entail various challenges, e.g., dealing with grid stability issues due to RES’ intermittency. Correspondingly, increasingly volatile and even negative electricity prices question the economic viability of RES-plants. To address these challenges, this paper analyzes how the integration of an RES-plant and a computationally intensive, energy-consuming data center (DC) can promote investments in RES-plants. An optimization model is developed that calculates the net present value (NPV) of an integrated energy system (IES) comprising an RES-plant and a DC, where the DC may directly consume electricity from the RES-plant. To gain applicable knowledge, this paper evaluates the developed model by means of two use-cases with real-world data, namely AWS computing instances for training Machine Learning algorithms and Bitcoin mining as relevant DC applications. The results illustrate that for both cases the NPV of the IES compared to a stand-alone RES-plant increases, which may lead to a promotion of RES-plants. The evaluation also finds that the IES may be able to provide significant energy flexibility that can be used to stabilize the electricity grid. Finally, the IES may also help to reduce the carbon-footprint of new energy-intensive DC applications by directly consuming electricity from RES-plants.