Talking Clean Power Solutions with Nicole Dierksheide

Nicole DierksheideEarth Day marks the launch of Greener Data: Volume 2, an anthology book featuring chapters written by leaders from across the digital infrastructure industry. One such chapter in the book is written by Kohler’s own Nicole Dierksheide, the global category leader for Kohler’s Data Center product line. Her chapter, entitled Navigating the Path to Carbon Reduction: Strategies for Effective Backup Power Generation is all about data center clean energy solutions. We sat down with Nicole to chat more about her chapter, her work at Kohler, and her views on sustainability in the world of connectivity and data storage. 

Can you tell us a bit about your role at Kohler, and how you got there? 

Sure! My role is director for Kohler’s large engine power systems, which includes a focus on backup power solutions for data centers. Over the last 25 years I’ve worked on all kinds of energy resiliency projects, from engineering subsystems on locomotives to automation of test equipment for electronics manufacturing.

Ever since I was a child I was fascinated by computers, and the idea of writing programs to automate a calculation or process interested me. That led me to a degree in electrical engineering and eventually a job at Kohler, where I’ve been for the last 16 years. 

What interested you about authoring a chapter for a data center sustainability book? 

Sustainability has always been something that I’ve held close personally, especially after having children. I want to make sure we leave the world a better place for them, and I am a firm believer that every little bit helps. I’ve applied that value to a lot of my work over the years, where I’m always focused on offering energy resilient solutions. Joining the Greener Data project as an author was a great opportunity for me to combine my passions with my work, so I jumped at the chance. 

What can you tell us about the chapter? What is it about? 

At its core, what I’m writing about is how the sustainability journey is not necessarily easy, and each decision along the way may not be perfect. The important thing to remember is to take the first step and to maintain momentum, and throughout the chapter I explore how we, as the data center industry, can do that. 

What kind of new technologies do you discuss in the chapter? 

One of the big topics in the chapter is hydrogen, specifically hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells represent a very promising solution to a lot of data center challenges because it produces no emissions. The output of a fuel cell is heat and water, that’s it. However, there are some challenges and some choices to be made as these kinds of solutions become more viable for the general market, and that’s what I tackle in the chapter.

What is your perspective on the implementation of technologies like these in the future? 

A big aim of my chapter is encouraging leaders to not just wait for new technologies to arrive. For instance, battery storage systems are very exciting but they don’t yet have a place in the energy landscape because the technology hasn’t arrived at the place where they can provide long-running resiliency in an acceptable footprint. So, while we look toward new technologies around things like hydrogen, battery storage, and fuel cells to prove out, there are choices today that can benefit the carbon footprint of a data center. We don’t have to wait. 

What are some of the recommendations you make for data centers to act on sustainability goals now, with their current backup power technology?  

Well, one is alternative fuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil that can be used in most currently-deployed diesel generators. Another is using aftertreatment equipment to block harmful emissions. Yet another is altering a generator’s testing cycle to use less fuel and reduce emissions. This is a huge part of the chapter—showing how and why data centers can enact practices right now that can make a big difference for environmental progress. 

Sounds great! Where can our readers go to learn more? 

I encourage anyone interested to grab a copy of the book, which is available now on Amazon. If you want to learn more about Kohler’s sustainability initiatives with our gensets, visit our sustainability page

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