Beyond the Meter - Episode 19

Beyond the Meter - Episode 19

Driving Energy Innovation in Data Centers with Clemson University



This episode is made in partnership with Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions.

In this season of Beyond the Meter, we’re taking a closer look at the meaningful impact business energy project have on the world around us. Host John Failla is joined by Jay Harris, Director of Data Center Services and Facilities for Clemson University, and Wayne Johnson, Key Segment Manager for Education at Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions. They discuss their organizations’ collaboration on energy infrastructure projects and provide insights into why these projects are critical to the university’s overall success.


You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • Data operations at Clemson [04:16]
  • Duke Energy’s role in Clemson’s upgrades [08:10]
  • The partnership structure [11:38]
  • Flexible contracts that grow as the business need grows [15:54]
  • Impactful Projects [21:11]
  • Major benefits of Duke Energy partnerships [28:23]
  • “Outsourcing vs right-sourcing”
  • Key lessons and tips for innovative energy [33:07]
  • Advice for the academic sector [37:00]

The Journey to Success

In 2007, due to a breaker labeling error, Clemson University had both of its 20-year-old UPS (uninterruptible power supply)  go out. That incident led the university to prioritize upgrades. The university would have needed several years to do the research required to fully understand the design and procurement to get the upgrades done. This is when Clemson turned to Duke Energy for guidance.  

The university started the conversation with Duke Energy in April of 2007. By mid-November, the university had a new generator, two new UPSs, 250-ton air-cooled water chiller, and four new computer room air handlers. The university went from piecemealing together their strategy to a fully functioning infrastructure.


A Board-Approved Financing Option

Clemson University worked with Duke Energy to identify areas that are ready to be improved or equipment that needs to be replaced. The university signed a 10-year agreement with Duke Energy and amortizes the cost across the length of that agreement essentially transferring CapEx to OpEx. Instead of needing the funds upfront to purchase and install equipment, the contract spreads the cost across 10 years.

This structure has made budgeting a lot easier for the university. Approval is easier with an amortization schedule vs. obtaining approval for millions of dollars upfront. Most university campuses are struggling with deferred maintenance costs, especially in facilities. Now Clemson University’s facilities team can propose a solution that removes them from the CapEx competition on campus in exchange for a little more OpEx. Not only will this help with resiliency, sustainability, and efficiency initiatives now, but it will also make sure those goals deliver across the lifespan of those assets.


An innovative business model

Part of what makes Duke Energy’s contracts so successful is their flexibility. Duke Energy has its own in-house structuring, counsel, engineering, and operations teams. These teams determine what each client is good at, and then Duke Energy prices and builds solutions around what the customers do and what they need. As a company, Duke Energy wants to have relationships with customers working collaboratively to deliver solutions across time because that’s where the most significant energy savings and reliability services outcomes are found.

Considerable savings can occur when working together to develop these contracts and partnerships. Rather than simply selling a product and leaving the rest to the customer, Duke Energy is involved in the design,  build,  operations and maintenance phases. Working through these phases with a single vendor can save money while achieving the comprehensive outcomes, including sustainability, reliability, and resiliency.


Resources and People Mentioned

Note: The above project was performed by Duke Energy’s Business Energy Services team. Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions leverages these specialists to deliver innovative solutions to customers.


Connect with Our Guests

Jay Harris -  Director of Data Center Services and Facilities for Clemson University

Jay Harris has been the Director of Data Center Services and Facilities for Clemson University’s Computing and Information Technology (CCIT) group since 2009. Among his responsibilities are the oversight and daily operations of Clemson’s two data center facilities, totaling approximately 19,000 square feet of white space, along with directing the enterprise print facility. The primary data center, with an aggregate feed of 5MW, houses a 1.4+ PFLOP supercomputer cluster dedicated to supporting research faculty at Clemson.

Mr. Harris has been with Clemson since 1998, working as a Unix systems administrator with the Computer Science Department before moving to CCIT in 2007 as the hardware architect. Prior to that time, he was a “professional” student.

Mr. Harris earned two BS degrees in Chemistry and Computer Science/Mathematics and a BA degree in Mathematics from Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC) in 1993, an MA degree in Analytical Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1996, and an MS degree in Computer Science from Clemson University in 2001.

Wayne Johnson - Key Segment Manager for Education

Wayne Johnson is key segment manager for the education segment at Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions and has a wealth of experience in energy innovation and solution finance. He also spent years as a facilities manager and energy executive in higher education.

Wayne’s out-of-the-box thinking helps him meet the challenges of energy infrastructure and asset management in education. Wayne designs energy solutions to help meet the needs of all project stakeholders, including facilities leaders, CFOs, presidents, heads of schools, faculty, staff, students and local communities. He uses his unique experience to help schools become more energy efficient, sustainable and viable for the future.

Wayne has been invited to speak at conferences and universities across the country about finance innovation for campus energy and sustainability projects. He also works closely with Duke Energy’s Emerging Technology organization to bring behind-the-meter innovation to campuses. Most recently, Wayne has been exploring the role of alternative fuels on campus via pilot project funding.

Wayne enjoys international travel, time on the lake and hiking with his family. Wayne has worked as a licensed electrical and general contractor and is an alumnus of Mars Hill University and The University of South Carolina. His master’s degree is in education administration.


Connect with Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions

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