European collaborative project CATALYST aspires to turn data centres into flexible multi-energy hubs, which can sustain investments in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Leveraging on results of past projects, CATALYST will adapt, scale up, deploy and validate an innovative technological and business framework that enables data centres to offer a range of mutualized energy flexibility services to both electricity and heat grids, while simultaneously increasing their own resiliency to energy supply.
A key moment for computing and energy infrastructures
Over the last decade, data centres, being the backbone of our digital societies, have made strides in successfully implementing energy efficient measures to reduce their energy and carbon footprint and bring down the accompanying costs. Nevertheless, as the industry becomes more mature and aware of its social and environmental impact and responsibilities, it becomes apparent that new opportunities can arise. In addition, developments in related sectors such as integration of renewable energy sources to power grids, heat networks and emerging energy services models provide fertile grounds to explore further data centre interaction with their local ecosystem to continuously improve their energy efficiency.
Indeed, recent initiatives and projects, such as EU FP7 GEYSER and DOLFIN, have explored such opportunities and delivered technological and business proof of concepts to support data centres integration with their smart city ecosystem. Notwithstanding, few such solutions are successfully being deployed on operational data centres. This is mostly due to technological fragmentation, excessive CAPEX and lack of appropriate business models.
The CATALYST vision: turning data centres into flexible multi-energy hubs
Addressing these challenges, CATALYST aspires to turn data centres into flexible multi-energy hubs, which can sustain investments in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Leveraging on results of past projects, CATALYST will adapt, scale up, deploy and validate an innovative technological and business framework that enables data centres to offer a range of mutualized energy flexibility services to both electricity and heat grids, while simultaneously increasing their own resiliency to energy supply.
The adaptation and replication potential of the CATALYST solution will be demonstrated by carrying out four pilots in operational data centres, spanning through the full spectrum of data centre types, from fully distributed, High Performance Computing (HPC) to colocation and legacy, and architectures, from large centralized versus decentralized micro data centres.
Data centre integration in smart grids: making it real
As the data centre industry has a strong impact on electricity grids, it is important to investigate interactions where DCs become actually active parties of the smart grids. By leveraging their own resources as well as their capacities to work together to balance their energy prosumption.
The goal of the catalyst project is to propose a resource manager able to balance IT workloads, enforcing SLAs, among federated data centres. By moving securely IT loads, the data centres could act as a flexible components within a smart grid. The CATALYST outcome will help DCs in trading its IT capacity which is dependant of actual energy availability or need, by making IT use following energy availability. The project consider electricity as well as heat/cold.
As an example, according to weather forecast there will be a lot of wind during the coming days, therefore a DC equipped with windmill will generate more electrical energy than usually. The goal is either to propose this additional energy to the grid, or to propose IT capacity to others DCs to take advantage of extra electricity and therefore become a flexibility element for the grid.
The CATALYST project: consortium and funding
The CATALYST project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 768739.
A geographically distributed across Europe consortium lies at the heart of the project, bringing their unique set of expertise to build a strong, focused team. The project gathers ten partner from across Europe:
- Engineering – Ingegneria Informatica S.p.A., large Italian company owning and managing DCs, project coordinator
- SingularLogic, integrator and DC owner from Greece
- ENEL, utility provider from Italy
- Alliander, Dutch Distribution System Operator (DSO)
- GreenIT, Dutch non profit organisation dedicated to energy & sustainability transition
- Schuberg Philis, DC owner established in The Netherlands
- Power Operations Ltd., incorporated in the UK specialized in energy efficiency solution
- Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center, research lab based in Poland
- Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, university located in Romania
- Qarnot computing