Amazon Piloting Tesla Batteries to Power Cloud Data Center

Publicly committed to 100-percent-renewable operations, company says energy storage helps use more renewable energy, improve reliability

Jason Verge

May 1, 2015

2 Min Read
Amazon Piloting Tesla Batteries to Power Cloud Data Center
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Amazon Web Services is piloting Tesla’s new stackable battery units to supplement data center power capacity in its US West region. The company is rolling out a 4.8 megawatt hour pilot of the Tesla energy storage batteries at the site.

Amazon made a commitment to using 100 percent renewable energy last November, following increasing criticism by Greenpeace. The Tesla announcement is part of these ambitions in practice.

The Tesla energy storage systems are based on the powertrain architecture and components of Tesla electric vehicles. They integrate batteries, power electronics, thermal management, and controls into a turn-key system.

Target, Enernoc, and Jackson Family Wines are also participating in pilots.

Batteries are not only important for data center reliability, but are enablers for the efficient application of renewable power, said James Hamilton, Distinguished Engineer at AWS, in a statement. One of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of wind and solar energy is intermittency of generation. Efficient energy storage addresses this problem.

“We’ve been working closely with Tesla for the past year to drive innovative applications of high-capacity battery technology in data center applications with the ultimate goal of reducing the technical barriers limiting widespread adoption of renewables in the grid,” Hamilton said.

Batteries are used to back up critical business operations in the event of a power outage, but benefits extend beyond remaining online. The Tesla batteries help a business maximize consumption of on-site clean power, avoid peak demand charges and buy electricity when it's cheapest. Utilities and intermediate service providers often pay users for participating demand-response programs.

Amazon opened a 100 percent carbon neutral AWS cloud region in Frankfurt, Germany last year, its third carbon neutral region, counting its GovCloud. The other is US West in Oregon.

In April, Amazon joined the American Council on Renewable Energy and announced participation in the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance (US PREF) to increase its work with state and federal policymakers and other stakeholders to enable more renewable energy opportunities for cloud providers.

Cloud computing in general is more energy efficient than traditional data centers both in implementation and utilization. AWS said it uses rack-optimized systems that use less than one-eighth the energy of blade enclosures commonly used in corporate data centers.

An ACORE posting discusses the effect of cloud on data center utilization. A well run data center would operate at an average utilization of 20 percent, meaning the 80 percent of capacity and the energy needed to keep it “ready” was wasted.

In January, Amazon teamed with Pattern Development to support the construction and operation of a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, called the Amazon Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge). In as early as January 2016, the project will start generating approximately 500,000 megawatt hours of wind power.

We are entering an age of interesting data center power generation alternatives. Microsoft is experimenting in Wyoming, Google, Facebook, and Apple have all committed to using renewable energy and have made large renewable energy generation investments.

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