Exploring smart grid and data center interactions for electric power load balancing

Hao Wang, Jianwei Huang, Xiaojun Lin, Hamed Mohsenian-Rad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The operation of a data center consumes a tremendous amount of electricity, and the energy cost accounts for a large portion of the data center's operation cost. This leads to a growing interest towards reducing the energy cost of data centers. One approach advocated in recent studies is to distribute the computation workload among multiple geographically dispersed data centers by exploiting the electricity price differences. However, the impact of load redistributions on the power grid is not well understood yet. This paper takes the first step towards tackling this important issue, by studying how the power grid can take advantage of the data center's load distribution proactively for the purpose of power load balancing. We model the interactions between power grid and data centers as a two-stage problem, where the power grid operator aims to balance the electric power load in the first stage, and the data centers seek to minimize their total energy cost in the second stage. We show that this two-stage problem is a bilevel program with an indefinite quadratic objective function, which cannot be solved efficiently using standard convex optimization algorithms. Therefore, we reformulate this bilevel optimization problem as a linear program with additional finite complementarity slackness conditions, and propose a branch and bound algorithm to attain the globally optimal solution. The simulation results demonstrate that our proposed scheme can improve the load balancing performance by around 12% in terms of the electric load index and reduce the energy cost of data centers by 46% on average.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages6
JournalPerformance Evaluation Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Data center
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Load balancing
  • Smart grid

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