RPD Energy Advances 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy Systems

RPD wind power farm with sun setting and stats from project

(Credit: RPD Energy)

by | Jul 18, 2023

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RPD wind power farm with sun setting and stats from project

(Credit: RPD Energy)



Implementing renewable energy is, in reality, still in its infancy. Many processes have yet to be thought of while others are considered by some to be impossible. The idea of 24/7 carbon-free energy is likely among these, yet RPD Energy has created a system that is proving otherwise.

RPD helped develop a system that provides continual energy with renewable sources for information storage and management company Iron Mountain. The 24/7 carbon-free energy (CFE) solution supports hundreds of facilities across nine states and three Independent System Operators (ISOs) using multiple generation sources such as wind and hydro projects. The project has been operational since November 2022 and is recognized as a top project in the Environment + Energy Leader Awards 2023.

A 24/7 carbon-free energy system in the recent past would have been considered unattainable, observes RPD Energy CEO Eric Alam, especially considering the complexity of matching hourly loads for multiple sites that have varying energy needs.

“But now it’s here,” Alam says.

A Wide-Ranging 24/7 CFE Project

RPD Energy’s 24/7 CFE system for Iron Mountain includes sites across the Midwest and Northeast United States. It serves more than 100 facilities across 250 utility accounts in areas that include PJM, NYISO, and ISO-NE. The company has developed the system with industry partners Scoville Risk Analytics and Axpo U.S.

Iron Mountain was one of RPD’s first customers with a one-megawatt transaction in Texas a number of years ago, Alam says. The goal of establishing, enhancing, and even being at the forefront of renewable energy offerings expanded from there.

Working especially with Iron Mountain, RPD Energy has addressed more and more complicated renewable energy platforms. Traditionally renewable energy deals would be balanced on a monthly or annual basis, and if power needs were met over that timeframe, a user could be considered to be using carbon-free energy. Iron Mountain wanted to take that a step further, Alam says, and make it completely in real-time with the amount of energy they were actually using every hour.

“They asked us, how we can get to something where we can match on an hourly basis our consumption with the physical, renewable power that we are buying,” Alam says.

Hourly Renewable Energy Coming to the Forefront

The idea of 24/7 CFE become more known across the industry after a Google whitepaper coined the term in 2019, according to Alam, and got more coverage over the following several years. RPD tried its hand with the venture first with Adobe in 2020 in California, and then with Iron Mountain in the northeast U.S. later that year, but on a much smaller scale.

“It was inventing the wheel,” Alam says. “It was really hard to do and really inefficient and cumbersome, but we put it together. We got good results. We were able to balance physical energy from specific assets injected into the grid to match the hourly consumption of the customer.”

From that point forward, Alam says 24/7 CFE became attainable for RPD, and the industry in general. Not only does it produce, but it also accounts for hourly generation for every hour of every day for every month of the year.

To produce such a platform, especially one on the scale of the large Iron Mountain project, which Alam says is in the neighborhood of one million MWs of energy, a good deal of work in a variety of areas had to be completed. That included a significant amount of analysis, bringing together hundreds of metered locations, and multiple generation sources such as wind or hydro, and getting them all to work in unity to create the right hourly load mix.

That is where Scoville played a significant role in the project. The company has significant quantitative math experience, a background in finance, and an infrastructure for doing complex statistical analysis.

That was an integral part of getting a project of this magnitude off the ground and on its way to being successful. There was the need to run hourly meter reads as well as simulations based on a variety of outcomes, including the environmental impacts of renewable energy sources.

Alam says there were thousands of simulations done to obtain the optimal mix to meet the needs of the CFE project, and now that the infrastructure is in place, it becomes repeatable, scalable, and broadly applicable.

Taking on Iron Mountain’s Energy Needs

Iron Mountain’s operations naturally include energy-intensive data centers. One could assume that would be where a good portion of the challenge would arise from a large project based on producing continuous energy.

However, Alam says the data centers were the simpler pieces of the puzzle. They have consistent energy needs throughout the day and that makes it easier to account for those facilities’ hourly needs. The more difficult parts of the projects were the dozens of standalone buildings and offices that are a part of the project where energy needs greatly fluctuate, even if they aren’t as big of a load on an individual level.

“So, we took all of that load data from all of those different individual accounts, ran all of the analytics and simulations to come up with a load profile at an hourly discretion across each of those regions,” Alam says. “We then matched up the generation from different assets and source types to meet those different load requirements.”

RPD will continue to support the Iron Mountain project through a four-year term, which will allow the company to construct additional energy generation as the project expands. RPD and Scoville will continue to provide hourly consumption and production data to Iron Mountain’s reporting system to track hourly CFE coverage, support the company’s sustainability claims, and identify trends that can help create even closer matching in the future.

Evolving RPD’s 24/7 CFE

With the 24/7 system up and running, RPD has found it has been quite a success.

During a three-month period, the company looked at the percentage of the hourly energy coverage rate across the three ISOs, none averaged less than 94%, and the NYISO pieces remained above 99% the whole time.

“I see a lot of numbers reported (in the industry) with numbers more in the 80s or below,” Alam says. “Achieving between 95 and 100% is exceeding everybody’s hopes and sets a really high standard.”

From here, RPD wants to keep fine-tuning that data and perfecting the system, which could one day make technology and platforms like 24/7 CFE a standard operation. Alam says the Iron Mountain project could serve as a roadmap to making that possible.

“We want to use this capability to help drive the energy transition,” Alam says. “We want to help people with their first steps, and also to be there for the innovative leaders who want to set a standard for the art of the possible and to prepare for what’s around the corner.”

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