Wind Turbines Made in OVH Soon to be Up and Running
In 2004, OVH had already developed water cooling, a liquid server cooling process. By bringing together water cooling and the concept of air cooling, the hosting provider was able to reach a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.1. So you reduce your energy consumption, and then what?
To go even further, OVH set itself the challenge of becoming a green energy producer by 2010. The ever-uncertainty of the current economic climate is also a motivation for the company to make savings: “The price of electricity never ceases to rise and as it's our raw material, we thought it made sense to produce at least part of the energy we consume ourselves,” explains Henryk Klaba. After having carried out some inconclusive tests on photovoltaic panels, the company turned to wind power.
Developing a new generation of wind turbines
OVH thus joined forces with the electro-technical engineering company DDIS, in order to develop a new aerogenerator model. Henryk explains, “We developed a patented alternator model** enabling us to eliminate the multiplier - a system of cogs which accelerates the alternator rotation speed. We can thus save €150,000 on the wind turbine design.” This new generation of aerogenerators offers 800 kW power per production unit. These devices are smaller and more compact than average, and they have been designed to operate on less wind. They will therefore be more profitable because when the wind is blowing at less than 15 km/hr, wind turbines generally do not rotate.
One and a half years of research and development will be needed to actually create the model developed by OVH and DDIS. “We installed a prototype near to Valenciennes (in the Nord region) in January 2011, and we carried out transformation experiments on the electric current produced by the alternator,” Henryk continues. “Our final prototype is now ready and it's only a matter of testing its long-term reliability. Large-scale production of electric energy will be tested on an experimental pole of eight wind turbines at Ortoncourt (Lorraine).”
In Eastern France, the first wind turbine is already up and running and connected on the EDF network, delivering an electric current which is limited to 500 kW at present. Three other aerogenerators will be connected within the next few days, whereas the last four will be mid-July. The eight wind turbines should produce 6.5 MW in total, or a continuous electrical availability of approximately 2 MW. Specifically, his covers the energy requirements for the hosting provider's Strasbourg datacentre, which is located a hundred kilometres away. “Of course, the energy produced by this wind farm will not be directly transported to our datacentre in order to power it,” Henryk insists. “The energy produced is delivered to EDF so the company actually sells the energy it produces and then purchases some. We use the EDF network as an energy transporter to our datacentres,” he smiles.
A step to counteract greenwashing
By becoming a renewable energy producer, OVH is taking a stance against a trend that the CEO deplores; “Some of our competitors have claimed that their datacentres are green. However, they don't actually invest in or produce their own electricity supply.” Since European legislation was passed on the opening up of the energy market, there is real speculation - everyone can now buy or sell “green” certified energy. According to Henryk, the door is open to all kinds of abuse; “We received several offers from energy suppliers offering to deliver electricity to us, accompanied by a certification stating that we consume “sustainable” energy. This would be the equivalent of buying a piece of paper to get a green guarantee in the eyes of our customers, but in the end, nothing is actually done to preserve the environment. ”
However, for OVH, getting involved in a wind farm does not make economic sense in the short term. It means making a serious investment - in addition to the R&D and the constructinon of the eight turbines of the wind farm, OVH must also cover the cost of connecting the machines to the EDF electricity grid, meaning 14 kilometres of cables at a total value of €800,000. All in all, the company's total budget is €14 million. “EDF buys our energy at approximately €80 per megawatt hour. At that price, this investment will pay for itself within 12 to 15 years. We aren't looking for profitability at any price, we prefer to contribute to developing a pragmatic, environmentally-friendly solution,” he underlines.
The CEO also addresses the possibility of getting into large-scale wind turbine production: “The type of aerogenerator that we have developed gives a return of €700,000 or €800 000 per 1 MW. Our approach has always been to offer accessible infrastructures,” he adds. “We will wait a few more years to confirm the reliability of our wind farm, and then - why not market this solution?”
*DDIS is an electro-technical engineering company created in 2008. OVH is the majority shareholder.
**Inside the wind turbine, the alternator is the component that produces the electricity.