Thankfully South Africa has seen less loadshedding in the last couple of weeks, but that by no means indicates we are out of the woods. In fact, Eskom has warned on numerous occasions that loadshedding could plague us for the next three years.

But without a steady supply of power and the threat of Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) running dry during loadshedding, can South Africa’s data centres look towards solar power to keep things flowing?

Apparently not. Well, that is according to Peter Greaves at least. Greaves is the Expertise Leader of Data & ICT Facilities for Aurecon, and he reckons that solar power is nowhere near being a stable solution.

“A lot of solar panels would be needed to reduce the amount of electricity from the grid that most data centres would need. The most likely application is to reduce the demand on the grid by a percentage,” he said in a media statement.

Greaves is of the opinion that a lot of solar panels would be needed to power a data centre’s UPSes, and even then, enough sunshine in South Africa isn’t a guarantee.

“Although solar energy could supply a data centre with energy, it would need to be ramped up to be usable by the UPS. At this time, I would be very hesitant to suggest that this is a potential solution due to the inherent unreliability of solar energy.”

But before everyone gets their knickers in a knot, there are some companies who have made it work. Most notable is Google, which is making use of solar energy by establishing solar generation plants that offset their grid-based data centre power use.

While not an ideal situation, it is at least a step in the right direction.

“The use of small panel arrays coupled with battery storage could be used to reduce the parasitic loads on sites that are non-critical such as fuel polishing, engine heaters, office air conditioning and lighting,” Greaves explained.

We guess it’s a situation of ‘if you can’t make your data centre green by using solar panels, make something that will at least offset its pollution’.

[Image – CC by 2.0/John Gwynne]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.