In the latest episode of Nomad Futurist, hosts Nabeel Mahmood and Phillip Koblence welcome Jeff Barber, the Vice President of Global Data Centers for Bloom Energy. In his role, he is dedicated to empowering data center developers, tenants, and operators to take control of all their data center power requirements with greener, more reliable, more resilient, and more predictable onsite power via fuel cells from Bloom Energy.

Barber joined from Roseville, California, home to the ​100-megawatt Bloom Tower. Bloom has been around for a little over a decade and went public in 2018. Bloom has always dabbled in data centers, but a year ago, they decided to shift their focus to prioritize this industry solely. To this end, they hired Barber to build out a team of data center experts. Barber reflects:

“It was a very interesting role because I was feeling the power crunch myself. We were not able to secure power in many, many places across the nation. [That] was about 18 months ago now, and it’s only gotten worse.”

Through the episode, Barber provides insights from his background across all data center industry verticals, including operations to sales to strategy and go-to-market and marketing, and everything in between. Barber says that his IT experience has by far been the most valuable for his current position:

“If you understand what the workload is, [you understand what is needed]. Is your tenant a social media company, or are they relational databases using an Oracle back end, maybe with an SAP? You can understand where they need to go. Where should they build? Where should they lease? You can also understand where data centers are going [with AI workloads.] Will they be much more modular? Will they just go to where the power is cheap and available? It’s going to make up a significant portion of the market.”

When looking to the future, Barber thinks on-site power generation will become paramount. With companies like AWS investing in nuclear power, he believes there will be a trend toward this driven by developers not wishing to be tied to utility providers, where companies are seeing pushback to committed power. He expands:

“I think we’ve reached the tipping point, or I know we have, where the developers are no longer relying on the utility. They’re planning on them to not show up. And so that’s good for on-site generation. It’s the paradigm shift.”

He says this does come with its own complications, mainly being that utilities are a Government-regulated industry in most cases. This can be a problem when trying to develop on-site power in certain areas like California and Virginia in particular. He also said there is the potential for the federal government to establish regulations down the line. But, he says there is hope:

“It’s something that Bloom has been navigating for over a decade, and there’s a positive side. If you look at the Inflation Reduction Act and ITC tax credits in the case of Bloom, that’s a 40 percent increase rebate to the developer because we’re manufactured in the U.S. So, it’s 30 percent plus 10 percent domestic content in some areas in the U.S. It’s up to 50%. These [energy zones] are areas that have been impacted by the reduction in coal or other generation sources. So that’s where the federal government is absolutely helping us tremendously.”

Barber dives into the future of energy requirements for data center developers and operators, using his expansive background to explain the past of the industry and look forward. To learn more about Bloom Energy and stay up to date with their initiatives, follow Bloom on YouTube, X and LinkedIn. Follow Jeff Barber on LinkedIn.

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