A Look at Modular Power Expansion

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Modular expansion isn’t just for servers or compute capacity. Several vendors have developed products that allow data center operators to easily expand the power capacity of existing facilities, or an instant power infrastructure for container-based expansion solutions. Active Power, Inc. (ACPW) has developed PowerHouse (pictured above) which packages a flywheel UPS, switchgear, a diesel generator and fuel tanks in a shipping container.

PowerHouse was designed to provide a turnkey power and cooling infrastructure to accompany the Sun Modular Data Center S20, easily sold two containers to Tesco PLC to boost power capacity in existing data center. The PowerHouse gear is stored in a 40 foot shipping container, similar to those now being used in mobile data centers from Microsoft, Rackable, Verari, IBM and Dell.

Last summer we first began to note is the emergence of products customized for the “Blackbox economy” of container data centers. And with a growing number of facilities-based data centers running out of power capacity, modular power expansion products have application well beyond the container sector.


Eaton Corp. has also developed modular, prefabricated enclosures for power equipment that can allow existing data centers to quickly add capacity. This approach can be particularly useful in markets like New York City, where obtaining additional power is problematic.

“There is no more generation and distribution capacity coming into New York,” Eaton’s Kenneth Uhlman said in March at the DataCenterDynamics New York conference. “You guys are locked. The electrical grid congestion is a major issue. You have some huge opportunities for on-site power and cooling.”

Uhlman said Eaton’s prefab power expansion products can be dropped on a cement pad, with six months between order and delivery. Customers can buy or lease units, and Eaton offers financing options.

“I know of no other way to incrementally increased power in a cost effective way,” said Uhlman. “It gives you a good way to generate electricity without tying up the capital.”

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.