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Smart Sustainability: Using AI to Enhance Energy Management

By: Jenny Gerson, Director of Business Process, zColo & Gabe Schwartz, Director of Marketing, Stem Intelligent Energy Storage

At zColo, we strive to reduce overall energy consumption and minimize reliance on fossil fuels in our data centers. Earlier this year we completed a purchase of 87 million kilowatt-hours of green power in our Illinois, Texas, and New Jersey markets and are now a certified EPA Green Power Partner, ranking on the Top 100 National list and the Top 30 in Tech and Telecom.

Other efficiency projects in our U.S. facilities include upgraded power and HVAC system components, enhanced airflow management, LED lighting retrofits and other operational improvements. In several facilities in Europe, we’re going even further with state-of-the-art cooling and other strategies to reduce overall power loads. And then there’s Irvine, where energy usage just got smarter.

In a partnership with Stem Intelligent Energy Storage and Southern California Edison (SCE), we are installing large-scale (250 and 400 kW) Tesla batteries and utilizing Stem’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to power our Irvine data centers when peak energy demand hits. The system’s ability to predictively address energy demand and change power loads across a network eases the utility’s peak power strains. The installation, which will be implemented offline so there is no impact to customer power reliability, is designed to improve energy and cost efficiency.

Here are some of our key considerations for optimizing energy efficiency:

Timing is everything. A growing portion of total electricity costs for data centers is now determined by when energy is used rather than just how much is used. Keeping costs down in this environment is increasingly complex. It requires collecting historical data, making accurate predictions, and optimizing decisions in real time. AI technology complements the capabilities of energy and facilities managers to provide intelligent analytics and automation.

Brain power, not battery power. Real-time energy optimization requires more than batteries alone. Batteries are only as valuable as the software that operates them, links them as a network, and activates them at the most optimal times. To ensure optimal performance, zColo will rely on batteries developed by Tesla and controlled by Athena, Stem’s AI that continuously learns and adapts to maximize the value of the system.

The power of the network. zColo will gain a more effective energy storage solution because we are joining other businesses participating in the Stem Grid Rewards program in partnership with SCE. When the grid is strained, Stem taps excess stored energy across its network to provide relief to the utility. SCE’s compensation for this service offsets zColo’s costs, while making the grid better for everyone.

zColo’s implementation of this system will lead the way for renewable power on the grid, positively impacting the customers and the community in these important ways:

Strengthening the grid. As part of the Stem network, a single energy storage system at a zColo data center becomes part of a dynamic “virtual” power plant that provides on-demand power to help strengthen the grid. zColo is actually helping to keep the lights on in the communities where it operates in addition to keeping energy costs down.

Integrating clean energy. By adopting this technology and expanding the network of energy storage-enabled commercial facilities, zColo is increasing the electric grid’s capacity to incorporate high levels of intermittent, renewable power sources such as wind and solar. This helps get closer to the day when 100% of electricity is generated using clean, sustainable fuel sources.

Customer-focused innovation. zColo will have one of the first data centers in the world that optimizes the timing of energy use, in real time, using AI-powered energy storage. This is in line with zColo’s innovative culture and dedication to providing our customers with the most advanced data management computing and facilities available.