Energy Internet and eVehicles Overview

Governments around the world are wrestling with the challenge of how to prepare society for inevitable climate change. To date most people have been focused on how to reduce Green House Gas emissions, but now there is growing recognition that regardless of what we do to mitigate against climate change the planet is going to be significantly warmer in the coming years with all the attendant problems of more frequent droughts, flooding, sever storms, etc. As such we need to invest in solutions that provide a more robust and resilient infrastructure to withstand this environmental onslaught especially for our electrical and telecommunications systems and at the same time reduce our carbon footprint.

Linking renewable energy with high speed Internet using fiber to the home combined with autonomous eVehicles and dynamic charging where vehicle's batteries are charged as it travels along the road, may provide for a whole new "energy Internet" infrastructure for linking small distributed renewable energy sources to users that is far more robust and resilient to survive climate change than today's centralized command and control infrastructure. These new energy architectures will also significantly reduce our carbon footprint. For more details please see:

Using autonomous eVehicles for Renewable Energy Transportation and Distribution: and

Free High Speed Internet to the Home or School Integrated with solar roof top:

High level architecture of Internet Networks to survive Climate Change:

Architecture and routing protocols for Energy Internet:

How to use Green Bond Funds to underwrite costs of new network and energy infrastructure:

Monday, November 22, 2010

How to attract green data centers and clouds to your province or state

[Over the past couple of years I have undertaken a couple of studies on behalf of clients in Canada and internationally looking at the requirements to attract data centers and/or cloud infrastructure to their respective town, province or state.
Data centers and clouds are seen as the new heavy industry of the information age. Large facilities can consume huge amounts of power and although initially they are not large employers, many facilities over time can become a nucleus for a range of value added ICT industries. Although all the cloud vendors say your business can be located anywhere when you are using the cloud, for a number of reasons including performance, latency and the need to touch and feel the equipment many customers of data centers and clouds eventually start to migrate some of their own offices nearby. Given the threat of climate change and the possibility of significant increase cost in electricity, it would seem obvious that jurisdictions that have plenty of clean power should be a natural location for data centers. There was considerable speculation that countries like Iceland, Norway and Canada would capture a large percentage of the global data center/cloud business. Canada especially with its abundant hydro electric resources and proximity to the world’s largest market in the US was thought to have a huge advantage. But other than a couple of smallish deployments this has not happened for a number of reasons.

In my, albeit, non-scientific investigation, involving interviews with a number of potential clients I came up with the following important requirements to attract data centers and cloud facilities. I have not included the most obvious incentive such as massive tax breaks as offered by several states in the US, as this is really market distortion and does not address the underlying infrastructure requirements which can persuade or dissuade a data center company to locate to a given jurisdiction. In my analysis the top 4 requirements to attract data centers to locate to a community or province, in no particular order, are as follows:

1. Clean energy, but with generous carbon offsets or RECs (Renewable Energy Credits)
2. Plenty of cheap dark fiber
3. Anchor customer
4. Proximity to several IXs

I will elaborate on these requirements in more detail as follows:

Clean energy, but with generous carbon offsets or RECs (Renewable Energy Credits)

It is interesting that one of the more popular global locations for data centers is in Northern Holland near Groningen. It clearly has no natural abundant resources or clean power facilities – and yet it has managed to attract not one, but two massive Google data centers amongst a host of many other data center providers. Similarly New York state has attracted a number of data centers for many of the same reasons. In both cases these countries are importing clean hydro power from other jurisdictions, Quebec and Norway respectively and using carbon offsets earned through a regional cap and trade to fund or underwrite the capital costs of the data center. For example, NYSERDA in New York state, whose money comes from the RGGI cap and trade program will fund up to 50% of the costs of a new or refurbished data center. Groningen is also next door to Europe’s first zero carbon coal plant which will use carbon sequestration to eliminate carbon and who then can sell RECs or offsets to local businesses such as data centers.

Plenty of cheap dark fiber

In the Netherlands in particular, but as well as New York there is an abundance of dark fiber and low cost telecom facilities. Lots of dark fiber is essential for data centers and cloud facilities because hosted clients often want their own independent connections. In the Netherlands, SURFnet in the early days helped drive the demand of dark fiber through their own deployments which were capitalized on as foreign carriers entered the Dutch market. There is now a large thriving dark fiber market in the Netherlands much of it now funded by pension funds and companies specializing in the business. In contrast, although there were some initial dark fiber deployments by R&E networks in Canada, there was no substantial follow on take up by the private sector as foreign ownership restrictions kept them out of the country. As a result, in most parts of the country, where they are ideal locations for green data centers, the lack of dark fiber or competitive telecom pricing, especially to the US makes these sites uneconomic.

Anchor customer

For many cloud providers the initial business case for locating cloud infrastructure within a given community often depends on finding a large anchor customer. This can be a major business or government, but often it is the local education and university community. Student e-mail services and applications are often seen as the low hanging fruit by most cloud providers. They usually don’t have the same privacy and reliability concerns that a commercial enterprise would require. Again in the Netherlands, the university-education community decided to outsource their cloud requirements, rather than building their own cloud facilities. They agreed to have SURFnet and its parent organization SURF develop a common set of requirements and represent all the institutions in their negotiations with various cloud providers. In some cases it took over a year and half to negotiate appropriate terms on privacy, data sharing and costs. But in the end, the long tortuous negotiations were worth it, as now in The Netherlands there is one set of rules for all cloud providers. This not only benefits the education sector but, in keeping with SURFnet’s mandate for national innovation, it also provides a country wide template for the commercial sector as well – which will speed up adoption of clouds by the local business community. SURFnet is also developing the tools to provide seamless middleware to provide a consistent collaborative interface between the various commercial cloud providers called COIN.

Proximity to several IXs

Another important requirement for most cloud providers and data centers is the ability to do no cost peering and avoid expensive transit charges from carriers. Proximity to a major Internet Exchange (IX) point is therefore is critical. Bill Norton at Equinix has written about the business case of IXs and dark fiber extensively, so I won’t repeat them here. The Netherlands is fortunate in that it has the world’s largest IX in Amsterdam (AMS-IX) with many international cable landings. For Canadian data centers the only significant IX is the TORIX in Toronto. In many situations major US IXs are far closer and more convenient – but without cross border dark fiber and competitive telecom pricing they might as well be on the moon.

The bottom line, although many cloud providers and data centers want to deploy green infrastructure especially using hydro electric power, without the ancillary support infrastructure and anchor customers, the business case is weak at best. The lesson for Canada, Norway, Iceland and similar blessed countries is not to rely solely on your natural advantage but invest heavily into the necessary telecom infrastructure.


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