Four CHP plants from MTU Onsite Energy recently went into operation supplying electricity and cooling power for two new data centers belonging to South African telecommunications company Mobile Telephone Networks Limited (MTN) near Johannesburg. MTU Onsite Energy supplied a total of four plants generating cooling, heating and electric power for the project: one plant for a data center in Doornfontein and three others at a different location in Newlands.
At the heart of the plants is one 12V 4000 genset with 1,169 kWe capacity and three 16V 4000 gensets capable of 1,712 kWe each. This is the first time Series 4000 gas engines have gone into service in South Africa and so far, the units have been operated in limited service mode. Final completion is scheduled before the end of 2016. The plants will be maintained and serviced by personnel from MTU South Africa (Pty) Ltd, the local representatives of MTU Onsite Energy, Augsburg.
The distributed gas gensets will supply reliable, long-term power for MTN’s high-performance servers. Demand for electricity in South Africa regularly exceeds the available capacity. Supply reliability and economic efficiency are therefore major factors together with the ability of these plants to deliver ecologically sound energy, particularly in comparison to hard coal which is the country’s primary source of energy.
The plants also convert exhaust heat from the engines into cooling power to maintain proper working temperatures for the servers in South Africa’s hot climate. The compression performance of the turbochargers on the gas engines is also specially adapted to match the location of the data centers at an altitude of 1,700 meters. Gas is an extremely cost-effective alternative to diesel-powered gensets and, as a rule, distributed power generation provides a cheaper solution than energy available from public sources in South Africa. The gensets in this project operate on natural gas. Plans are also underway to utilize low-methane gas from coalmines and a genset with a specially adapted engine is likewise available for this application.