Romania's largest campus to come with 200MW gas-fired power plant

14 January 2022 | Melanie Mingas

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A massive new data centre campus in Romania will be powered with a Rolls-Royce mtu trigeneration plant, using Series 4000 generator sets powered with natural gas.

Currently under construction, ClusterPower's 273,000-square-metre campus in Craiova, Romania, aims to increase the country's competitiveness in global IT infrastructure. The operator said the project represents the first hyperscale data centre in South-East Europe and the largest data centre in Romania. The project was announced in June

Comprising five data centres – the first of which will open this quarter – the campus is due for final completion in 2025. In the course of this, the Rolls-Royce release read, there are plans to expand ClusterPower's gas-fired power plant to a total capacity of 200MW allowing it to "produce its own sustainable electricity".

ClusterPower CEO Cosmin Georgescu said: “We need a very reliable and sustainable solution and a company that is innovative enough to match our ambitions.

“Therefore, we are proud of our partnership with Rolls-Royce and the mtu brand. It is a relationship of trust based on common goals like using an innovative and environmental-centric technology for the benefit of our clients. One of the most important values ClusterPower embraces is trust. It is the central element of our relationship with our customers, partners and all those involved in this project," Georgescu continued.

While natural gas is an improvement on diesel or coal it is still a fossil fuel and is not considered a sustainable source of power.

That said, Rolls-Royce did clarify that the generator sets "fulfil the strictest emissions standards". They are based on mtu 20V 4000 L64 FNER gas engines and "allow for quick ramp-up and ramp-down, offer a wide-range of load operations, and high performance also at high temperatures".

What is slightly more hopefully is that the selected units have the ability to blend 25% hydrogen along with natural gas and can be transformed into a "pure hydrogen engine" in future, which would mark a significant improvement on the use of gas. ClusterPower said this was "an important factor" in its selection, but no timeline was given for the hydrogen switch. 

Under the plans, the mtu combined cooling, heat and power plant (CCHP) units will supply the building and infrastructure. The concept uses the gas gensets as prime power source, producing electricity while using the main grid as backup. The two said this is "a unique configuration that is currently rarely seen".

At present, Romania's grid is predominantly powered by fossil fuels. According to figures quoted by the US International Trade Administration, in 2020 Romania's total renewable energy production (wind, photovoltaic and biomass) amounted to 16% of energy produced for the grid.

Georgescu added: “I think that Romania has a lot to say about the European future of innovation and digitalisation and we have the opportunity here to develop new infrastructures, using the latest technologies and with modern environmental standards.

“We are lucky enough to start fresh and we will put this opportunity to good use. It is always nice to know that we have partners ready to support us in our endeavours.”

Rolls-Royce shared additional details after this story was originally published. On the use of gas, the firm stated: "We see gas as a bridging technology to fully sustainable electricity. The release refers to the final completion of the project where the gensets are anticipated to run on green hydrogen, thus being completely sustainable.

"The CCHP is a very efficient way of producing electricity and cooling, with our solution offering 88.5% efficiency."