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San Antonio Preps for Tenfold Increase in Electricity Demand from Data Centers

Bexar County and San Antonio have a growing data center presence, and the municipal energy provider needs to expand capacity.

Bexar County, Texas
Robert Plocheck
CPS Energy is preparing for a tenfold increase in energy demand from the power-sucking data centers that are increasingly picking San Antonio to set up their armies of cloud-based servers.

The dozen or so centers operating in far western Bexar County already consume about 324 megawatts of power — enough to power about 65,000 homes. By the end of 2028, an influx of new centers could add another 2,700 megawatts of demand. And by 2033, it jumps to more than 3,300 megawatts, according to a presentation the utility’s trustees received Monday.

That means the amount of electricity consumed by the centers could be enough to power more than 650,000 homes in the next decade. And as the boom rolls on, the city-owned utility is trying to direct new companies to different parts of its service area to spread the load.

CPS already has requests from seven large-use customers that have finalized projects. Another five are in the process of securing land; five more have told CPS they’re searching for sites.

Some of the companies operating data centers in Bexar County include:
  • Microsoft Corp.
  • Valero Energy
  • Frost Bank
  • Christus Health
  • Lowe’s
  • Amazon

The United States has more than 5,300 data centers as of this year, according to a count kept by The size of the U.S. market is expected to go from $18 billion now to more than $28 billion by 2028, according to trend forecasts from Mordor Intelligence.

CPS President and CEO Rudy Garza told trustees Texas regulations allow quicker construction of the transmission lines needed to carry power to the centers than is possible in many other states. Still, the roughly three years it takes here is longer than the 15- to 18-month turnaround data companies are seeking.

Trustees also shared concerns about CPS’ ability to keep up with demand from the data center influx at the same time population growth is pushing residential and other industrial demand, and to handle the effects of increasingly inclement weather.

He pointed out that the city no longer offers tax breaks for data center projects and said the influx is also a challenge for the state grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which has struggled to keep up with increasing demand amid a continuing transition to cleaner energy sources.

Garza said existing data centers in the region have been responsive to conservation and demand-response programs that move large power users off the grid to prevent an emergency when supplies are tightest.

CPS also is considering how it might have to alter its generation plans as it accounts for the demand growth as the number of centers soars.

But planning for data centers is easier than for some other growth because once they’re ramped up, their usage is predictable and stable.

Garza said CPS is adding about 150 megawatts of new power generation every year. The CEO brought the discussion back to last week’s rate-hike approval. CPS pushed for the 4.25 percent rate increase from its customers because of the need to keep up with new generation and infrastructure upgrades. While residents make up 90 percent of its customers, commercial customers’ rates also go up under the new city-approved hike.

(c)2023 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.