US data centre energy management software company Power Assure announced last Tuesday that Dominion Energy Technologies has invested $1m in the company. Dominion Energy is an affiliate of Dominion Resources, one of the largest producers and transporters of energy in the US.
The investment adds to Power Assure’s existing haul of $28.75m plus a $5m matching-fund grant from the US Department of Energy. It was only in September that the company raised $13.5m from a funding round, with ABB the lead investor. Dominion’s investment will contribute to growing Power Assure’s sales and marketing, but it will also be used to increase engineering investments in the area of smart-grid integration for data centres.
It’s the use of the money that’s interesting here. Dominion is involved in smart grid solutions to increase grid efficiency and the investment seems to be at least partly based on the prospect of integrating data centres more closely with smart grids. Given the amount of power that large data centres use, there’s a lot of sense in being able to more dynamically manage their power availability and Power Assure’s energy management software could be an important part of that process.
One of the main reasons for needing smart grids is that renewable energy is increasingly part of the power mix. The grid needs to be able to accommodate a variety of variable inputs from these sources as well as better matching demand with supply, for example through the use of demand response tariffs, i.e. cheaper power at off-peak times when renewable energy is plentiful.
Given the power consumed by data centres, they may well be significant players in this smart grid future. For example, data centres could schedule their work to take advantage of favourable off-peak tariffs. Companies with multiple data centres could dynamically switch the computing load between locations to take advantage of tariffs elsewhere. Applications can already be easily and seamlessly switched between locations.
It’s not something data centre managers are going to do in a hurry, their priority is the reliability of the service they supply so they’re not inclined to step away from the safe path. Nevertheless, data centres are expensive things to run, so if money can be saved without impacting business it’s not something that will be ignored forever. Power Assure seems to be positioning itself for this future move.