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ClimaCon Preview: Why Computing is a Better Battery for Renewable Energy

ClimaCon22 is less than a week away, and we’re excited to be hearing from Dipul Patel, CTO with green-data-center developer Soluna. Dipul will be leading a session on “Making Renewables More Sustainable: Recapturing Curtailed Energy for Computing Innovations.”

Here’s what to expect from the session:

Who is Soluna?

Soluna is the leading developer of green data centers for batchable computing powered by renewable energy. Their team partners with renewable energy asset owners to capitalize on energy that would have been curtailed – or wasted. This allows owners to remove a drag on their profits while providing customers with clean computing energy from Soluna’s green data centers.

Their projects, which are named for female leaders in technology, are located across the country and span a number of use-cases:

  • Project Sophie [Wilson]: A greenfield, 25 megawatt data center in Kentucky powered by a hydroelectric dam.
  • Project Edith [Clarke]: A 3.3 megawatt data center in Washington connected to a hydro power plant experiencing loads of spilled energy.
  • Project Marie [Curie]: A 25 megawatt data center in Kentucky powered by a hydroelectric dam.

As part of these projects, Soluna also prioritizes engaging with the surrounding communities to run the data centers and drive career growth.

“We train people, we bring them in. They don’t need a college education, and we built an operating system that not only teaches them how to run the site, but then they can become the teachers,” Dipul explained.

What is Wasted Energy/Curtailment?

Any time renewable energy is generated, it funnels directly into the grid. But if there aren’t enough customers consuming energy at any one time, renewable companies are then forced to stop creating energy. In short, renewable energy production is deliberately reduced to match the demand. The result is wasted energy.

According to Dipul, “We estimate the additional revenue your project will earn from our modular data center…Curtailment can cost you up to $2 million per year, or up to 30% of annual revenue, due to lost revenues from PTC, RECs, & PPAs.”

Why Computing vs a Battery?

Developers have integrated batteries with renewable energy assets to deal with curtailment. But in doing so, they still create waste and don’t generate immediate demand. That’s why turning curtailed energy into computing is so effective.

The process of powering data centers with excess energy allows Soluna to consume wasted energy with zero waste. In essence, it removes the need for an intermediary method of energy collection and brings the data center to the source.

Besides creating no waste, computing also provides a more profitable curtailment strategy for renewable owners. Rather than simply storing excess energy, these organizations can fill a need for demand with a solution that was previously nonexistent.

How Weather Intelligence Can Help

Weather and climate have a significant impact on renewable energy operations and, as a result, Soluna’s performance. Whether during development, construction, or operations, conditions like wind direction and speed can have negative consequences for Soluna’s data center operations—especially when they’re unexpected. 

That’s why weather intelligence is such a critical tool for the renewables industry. Real-time monitoring and automated alerts empower operators to better predict and prepare for the impact of weather before it hits in order to:

  • Centralize forecasting: Stay ahead of market trading, improve asset management, and plan for severe weather.
  • Improve decision making: Ensure power grids are being efficiently managed at all times to adapt to changing weather-driven demand.
  • Mitigate operational impact: Monitor all assets and avoid costly damage to your wind turbines or solar panels by planning in advance for severe weather risks.

Tracking temperature, wind speed/direction, and nearby smoke can help Soluna’s data centers run most optimally. Ultimately, Dipul said it best: “Just knowing that it’s happening enables you to act.”

Save Your Spot to Hear Dipul’s Full Session at ClimaCon 2022 

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