Can Data Centers Go Green With Biodiesel?

Data centers consume vast amounts of energy to provide the computing power modern commerce depends upon. That cost adds up, and the environmental impact grows with every new server that is added to the mix. As a consequence, the industry is highly sensitive to fluctuating energy prices, blackouts, and brownouts. Plus, it regularly catches flak from environmental groups eager to see data centers reduce their eco-footprint. It is a delicate balancing act that has many data center operators considering the use of biodiesel in order to ensure they have the backup power they need without increasing the emissions their operations generate. However, there are pros and cons to the use of biodiesel and it is important that data center operators understand these before making the decision to switch from traditional diesel to biodiesel.

Advantages of Biodiesel

  • Domestically produced biodiesel is renewable and sustainable.
  • Biodiesel is energy efficient and can generate results comparable to traditional diesel fuels.
  • Biodiesel is eco-friendly and its use can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Biodiesel can be used in most generators, although some systems may require conversions.
  • Biodiesel is non-toxic, thus there is less risk of respiratory injury or environmental damage if a spill occurs.
  • Biodiesel has a lower flashpoint, thus it is less likely to accidentally ignite.

Disadvantages of Biodiesel

  • Biodiesel has a typical shelf life of around 6 months when properly sealed and stored. By comparison, diesel fuel can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months.
  • Biodiesel is a solvent, which means that it can loosen debris within pipes and tanks, thus clogging fuel filters. It can also damage rubber hoses and gaskets.
  • Biodiesel can be governed by different storage regulations. Anything up to B20 is governed by state statutes, while anything higher is governed by federal regulations.
  • Biodiesel can contain methanol. This can cause lung/skin irritation and can pose a significant fire hazard.
  • Can be difficult to find reliable, consistent biodiesel supplies.
  • Poor quality biodiesel can cause deposits, corrosion, and other issues that can cause catastrophic engine failure.

Is It Worth It to “Go Green?”

There is a lot of pressure on the data center industry to “go green.” And, it can be advantageous if it is done properly. This requires ensuring you have proper storage facilities, select high-quality biodiesel fuels, and properly maintain your power generation systems.

Will it save you money? Probably not. That’s because biodiesel costs roughly the same as traditional diesel. And, when you add in additional maintenance, storage, and regulatory requirements, “going green” may cost you some greenbacks. But, if your goal is reducing your eco-footprint, then yes, investing in biodiesel may be the right move for your data center that won’t negatively impact your ability to power your standby generator systems.

We are always ready to answer your questions about standby generators and the fuels we recommend. We encourage you to contact Gen-Tech Power Generation Specialists at (800) 625-8324 to speak with our specialists about your specific needs and goals.

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