The beginning of a trend

Welcome to “Cut the Copper.” In this blog, we’ll discuss the topic of power distribution in data centers. For now, let’s just get acquainted.


One evening back in January [2012], around midnight, I was brushing my teeth in preparation for bedtime in a hotel room in New Jersey. I was startled by a call on my cell phone, from a young man who identified himself as a project manager for a contractor building a data center in Texas. He sounded agitated, and said that during commissioning activities at the site that day, two 2.5 MVA VPI dry-type MV substation transformers catastrophically blew up when switched by an upstream vacuum breaker at 25 kV. He asked if I’d ever heard of such a thing before.

I said, “Yes, indeed, Paul (not his real name), maybe at least a hundred times by now…I’ve had 35 years of experience with the phenomenon, and know it well…”

After reflecting on the problem at this particular site, and the complete turmoil into which it threw the project completion schedule, and the instant disintegration of that construction team - innocent and unwitting contractors, Owners, consulting engineers, suppliers, who suddenly became each other’s adversaries, after working together cohesively for months - I decided to write an article, relating my own experiences about such events.

I blasted out a very long paper, words gushing out my head, and sent it into Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine. What I wrote was so lengthy, it came out more like a book than any sort of a “paper.” The editors were interested in the story, but obviously couldn’t publish an article that would triple the thickness of the issue it was published in.

The article had a working title New Trends In Major Power Distribution In Large Data Centers, and the Rebirth of the “Loadcenter” Unit Substation Concept. By no means a great title, but it needed to be called something.

The editors of CSE and I agreed that we would break this story down into series of blogs over a period of months, and publish online, instead of in print. There will be links included to related photos and videos and IEEE white papers.

The first installment will be coming soon. It will be strongly opinionated and controversial, and I expect that knowledgeable people and good engineers who have studied the problem will both agree and disagree with those opinions.

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