Big scare going around: more and more authorities are mandating biofuel for use in data center backup generators. While this is great in theory, it is less so in practice, as this article
To illustrate what is going on, let me tell you about my own experience with my car. I am driving a 1999 Toyota Diesel, which is the fuel the Dutch government hates the most (don't worry, I'll get to the link with biofuel very soon). One day in winter, I was driving on the motorway when the car suddenly lost power. Whatever I did, it was impossible to speed up and get moving.
Luckily, I could pull over to a filling station before the car was dead in its tracks. It turned out that the cold weather (by Dutch standards, it was very cold out there, and Diesels don't like that) was the cause, because water drops had formed in the fuel of the devil. The engine did not like that, and stopped as a precaution. After cooling off (no pun intended), I was driving again.
Now this happened with a standard diesel engine. And not just any diesel engine: Toyota built some of the best engines at the time, as they perfected in the rugged Toyota Hilux
. But even this engine was susceptible to this problem.
And here is the catch: chances of this happening increase a thousandfold with biofuels, because they tend te be more contaminated. And no, you cannot just park a backup generator when this happens, because it is usually the last line of defense for a data center to stay operational. So if the engine coughs on fuel imperfection, you can kiss your availability goodbye.
Needless to say that this is causing some concern, especially in some American states where biofuel is mandated. For that reason, the Uptime Institute has written a white paper
on the subject. But there are more writings out there.
It ain't easy being green.