Zero-carbon Cloud: Research Challenges for Datacenters as Supply-following Loads

Andrew A Chien; Chaojie Zhang; Hai Nguyen. 5 February, 2019.
Communicated by Andrew Chien.


Hyperscale cloud datacenters are the fastest growing consumer of power in most of the world. Zero-carbon cloud proposes the use of these networks of datacenters as a geographically-distributed, supply-following load to utilize excess renewable generation (e.g. stranded power). Prior research has documented ample and growing stranded power, productive support of important computing workloads, the ability to increase grid renewable absorption, cost-competitiveness with traditional data centers, and the ability to reduce cloud computing's carbon footprint. Recent developments suggest Zero-carbon cloud is at a breakout point, and datacenters as supply-following load being deployed.

Datacenters as supply-following loads are intermittent but differ significantly for traditional unreliability models. These datacenters have high unavailability (1-20%), large-scale (10,000 cpu's), and predictable outage intervals. These properties raise a wealth of interesting research questions in cloud and energy systems in areas of resource management and scheduling (variable, stochastic capacity), how much cloud load is compatible with supply-following and can it be shaped, how to couple mutually distrustful power grid and cloud scheduling, how to clear power markets with stochastic bids, and how to manage power grids with stochastic bids.

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