Use of MV Switchgear in Data Centers

by Apr 13, 2021

According to a recent study published by the American Association for Advancement of Science, data centers consumed close to 205 TWh of electricity in 2018 or 1% of total global electricity consumption. On the other hand, the amount of computing carried out in data centers increased more than 550% between 2010-2018 while energy consumption by data centers increased only 6%. The drastic improvements in energy efficiency attributed to two factors:

  • a shift from older, inefficient data centers run by traditional businesses, for instance banks, insurance companies or retailers, to newer facilities specializing in cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
  • the electricity use per computation of a typical server has dropped by a factor of 4 due to processor efficiency and reductions in idle power.

    Source: A study, Recalibrating global data center energy-use estimates, published by American Association for Advancement of Science.

    In the last ten years, the number of internet worldwide users doubled as global internet traffic increased 12 times. But with worldwide lockdowns, due to Covid-19, internet traffic between Feb. and mid-April of 2020 increased by almost 40%. This increase in demand was driven by a surge in video streaming, video conferencing, online gaming, and social networking.

    Overview of MV switchgear in Data Centers

    There are various types of loads in data centers, including IT equipment, air conditioners, fans, pumps, lighting computers, and servers. The flow of electricity from utility/generator to load is facilitated by multiple equipment. The terms upstream and downstream are employed to mark the location of equipment or a fault. The term upstream suggests a direction toward the utility and the term downstream suggests a direction the data center loads.

    The utility provides electricity directly to the Medium Voltage (MV) switchgear which is usually located in the electrical space of large capacity data centers. In the case there is a generator present it also feeds the MV switchgear.

    MV switchgear is employed to control and distribute power and for disconnecting faults, for instance when isolating a section for maintenance purposes. It generally includes meters, breakers, contactors, fuses, surge arresters, earthing switches for IEC equipment, voltage/current transformers, control and protection relays and overall control system.

    Switchgear in data centers are of two types: Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) and Air Insulated Switchgear (AIS). The global revenue generated from the sales of MV switchgear for data centers is shown in Figure 1. A recent report by PTR shows that AIS is primarily employed for switchgear with the largest growth for 2020 to 2025 will occur in the EMEA region for both types of switchgear.

    Recent Data Center Projects of Note

    China, Germany, France and the USA are the top markets for data centers in the world. These countries continue to expand their data center projects and some of the recent ones are:

    • China – Beijing Highlander – underwater data center at Zhuai. Highlander is planning on building a series of undersea data centers in the next five years in four other coastal areas.
    • Germany – China Mobile International opened a new data Tier III Certified facility in Morefelden, South West of Frankfurt.
    • France – OVH Cloud plans to launch storage as a service offering using IBM’s enterprise tape technology at four dedicated data centers.
    • USA, Ashburn, Northern Virginia – Vantage Data Centers is building a new facility. This one is the second of five planned on their 42-acre site and upon completion. Vantage is also expanded their California center on the Santa Clara II campus.
    • USA, Ashburn, Northern Virginia – Cologix started building a million square foot, 120 MW cloud campus.

    Looking Forward

    In 2020, countless companies changed the way they do business because of Covid-19. The ones that could, moved towards digitalization, allowing employees to work from home and retailers that had depended solely on in-store sales discovered on-line sales.


    As the pandemic comes under control, it is doubtful all these altered business models will revert to pre-covid situation. Some will return to things as they were, but some are discussing a hybrid type of businesses which allows employees to work at home part of the week. In addition, PTR sees emerging markets, in Africa and the Middle East, also driving the growth of data centers. The demand for data centers will continue and so will the demand for the corresponding MV switchgear sales.