Sustainability 101

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Carsten Baumann, Director Strategic Initiatives & Solution Architect at Schneider Electric, dives into the big issue of sustainability.

Raymond Hawkins: Welcome again to another edition of Not Your Father’s Data Center. I am Raymond Hawkins, your host here in Dallas, Texas, Chief Revenue Officer for Compass. Today, we are joined by our friends at Schneider Electric, specifically Carsten Baumann, Solution Architect and Director of Strategic Initiatives out of the lovely Larkspur, Colorado. What a beautiful part of the world. Carsten, how are you sir?

Carsten Baumann: I’m doing rather well today. Thank you so much. And it’s great to be here.

Raymond Hawkins: What a great place to get to live in the foothills of the mountains and getting to hike right out your back door. That’s kind of got to be hard to beat.

Carsten Baumann: It is. And after having lived in Los Angeles for 19 years, it is definitely back to my roots where I came from in Germany. So my parents still live in the boonies outside of Frankfurt. And I was a kid, I really didn’t like it because my cousins, they were living in Frankfurt and there were sirens and traffic lights and McDonald’s and everything.

So that was excitement. And I lived in the middle of nowhere. And here I am, 50 years later. So I’m back in the boonies. But now, in this time, it’s in Colorado. So I’m really, really enjoying it.

Raymond Hawkins: All full circle. Well, I’ll tell you, I have a lovely concrete jungle outside my window here in Downtown Dallas. There are prettier cities in the world, I’ll just say that. Grateful to be here working, but it is not the prettiest place in the world. So Carsten, you alluded a little bit to early days and growing up.

I love the fact that you call it the boonies, even in Germany. So tell us a little bit about growing up in the boonies and how you end up from Germany to get all the way through to Los Angeles in the United States and now in Colorado. So tell us a little bit about your story, if you’re willing?

Carsten Baumann: Yeah, absolutely. So I was born, raised and educated in Germany, as I mentioned, just outside of Frankfurt. Little tiny town. And ultimately, I graduated as an electrical engineer in a city near Frankfurt as well, called Giessen.

So then I went to military. So I served in the German military army at that time, and it was mandatory service. And then after that, it was because of my parents’ business, they knew somebody. And they asked, “Hey, my son, he needs a job.” And this was an American company, it was Bell and Howell back then. And I think they still exist. And then [inaudible 00:02:23].

Raymond Hawkins: Making helicopters, I think.

Carsten Baumann: Yeah, electronics as well.

Raymond Hawkins: Oh, electronics.

Carsten Baumann: Video stuff. Something like this. So anyhow, he was saying, “I asked, but we don’t have anything. But I asked our neighbors if they have something. And they are very interested.” And this was JVC Professional, and JVC Japanese Victor Company. So they have the consumer side back then and they also have the professional side.

So where they sold manufactured or professional video equipment: cameras and tape recorders back then in the analog world. And so that’s where I started working after I graduated and after my military service. And so from engineering, I worked into system engineering, system sales. And then all of a sudden, I moved more and more into sales. And I started collaborating with multiple international companies because I did system designs for large broadcast stations within the United States: the Fox, the ABCs, the NBCs.

So I did this back in Europe. So I started working with some international companies in order to provide technology to these customers to provide a complete solution. And so I got exposed to different companies. And long story short, at some point I left JVC and I joined a Canadian company. And so they were headquartered in Toronto. They have been acquired by Harris now, and they’ve changed a few names.

And so I moved to the United Kingdom near London in ’95 and ’96. And after that, I actually moved back to Germany, but then I moved to Munich. I was there for about four years. And then the same company, they said, “Look, we need to reorganize and restructure some of our sales and marketing efforts in Northern America and we would like you to do that.”

So I remember I was playing around with squash, similar to racquetball with one of my Canadian colleagues over lunch. And I come back, and this was the time when everything was very formal, so we had the mahogany hall over there. So the receptionist in the entrance of the building said, “Hey, Carsten, our CEO wants to see you.” And, “Okay.” But I wondered, “What is this about?”

So anyhow, I go there. And then he is in the office and then our executive vice president of sales and marketing, his name was Gary. So the CEO was asking, “So Carsten, how would you like working in the United States?” I was surprised because I didn’t know what this was all about. I looked out of the window, and I was thinking. And all of a sudden, the COO started counting down from 10, “10, nine, eight, seven.”

And I thought, “I can’t let him count down to zero and not have an answer.” So around four or five, I turned around and said, “If the offer is right and the conditions are right, I’m in.” Not knowing what it is all about and so forth. So that was the end of the conversation with him.

And he said to the guy, Gary, the executive vice president, “Make it happen, make it work.” So we worked it out. And then in 1999, in April, I moved from Munich to Los Angeles. And I knew nobody over there. Got a little apartment, back then, we had company cars. And I remember-

Raymond Hawkins: What was the company? This was not JVC. What was the company name that you moved with?

Carsten Baumann: … Yeah, the company was called Leitch Technology, L-E-I-T-C-H. So they don’t exist anymore, and the names have changed. They sold their business to Harris.

Raymond Hawkins: What did Leitch do?

Carsten Baumann: Broadcast video and telecommunications.

Raymond Hawkins:        So back to the network stuff that you were referring to. Okay, gotcha.

Carsten Baumann: Yeah, same type of thing.

Raymond Hawkins: Well, LA’s probably not a bad place to be in that business.

Carsten Baumann: Yeah. I remember because here, I grew up in Germany, and actually I still have a convertible back in Germany. However, the weather is not always all that good. And I remember we had this policy, you cannot have a convertible as a company car.

And I said, “Well, but wait a minute. I’m moving to Los Angeles, the weather is always beautiful. The coast and everything, Hollywood. I need a convertible.” So I said, “Look, if you want me to go there, you have to find an exception so that I get a convertible as a company car.” So I guess, I was the only guy who got a convertible as a company car.

Raymond Hawkins: There you go. Rocking the boat.

Carsten Baumann: That’s right. And then I started realizing, because I remember, before I moved to the United States, all these convertibles, they have air conditions in the United States. And I didn’t understand why would you need an air condition when you have a convertible?

I very soon learned, living in Los Angeles, sometimes it’s so warm and the sun is so brutal, you don’t want to put the top down so you better have the top up, and you turn the air condition on. So I got the whole flavor about the differences between what kind of functions and functionality you would have in a car in the United States versus in Europe.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah, that’s funny. I bought my second car, we were living in Seattle. And I could not believe that people would sell cars without air conditioners. Because I was from the Deep South. That was a shock to me. I was like, “What do you mean that you don’t have an air conditioner?” The guy was like, “Yeah, we don’t put air conditioners in our cars.” I’m like, “Are you nuts? I live in South Georgia. You’re crazy.”

Carsten Baumann: I know. We need it 364 days a year.

Raymond Hawkins: That’s exactly right. It’s exactly right. So you get to LA, Leitch Tech, is that how I say it?

Carsten Baumann: Leitch Technology. Yeah.

Raymond Hawkins: Okay, Leitch Technology. They’re in the broadcast business. They move you, they finally get you a convertible. And how do you get from there to Schneider Electric? How in the world do you get from broadcasting to the data center business?

Carsten Baumann: So normally, I was supposed to be there only for two years. I was there as an expat, special work visa, whatever. And I was supposed to go back, but then we made some acquisitions in some technology companies, was more on the telecommunication side of the business. And they asked me to actually lead the integration of that technology into our portfolio.

 And as a result, now this became a permanent position and the company sponsored my green card. And then I met my now wife. So she was born and raised in California, so I’m still here. But ultimately, in 2003, I left the company, Leitch Technology. And I joined a Belgian company, called Barco, it’s Belgian American Radio Corporation. And this was all about visualization technology: displays, projectors, LED boards and all these kind of things.

But my entire background was always around technology. And so after that, I had actually a very quick stint with a company called WET, Water Entertainment Technology, based in Los Angeles. And so they are probably best known for being the creators and founders of the… The creators and the fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. So that’s the kind of company.

 But because that was 2008, and then the downturn happened. And so I was out of a job. But at that time, I worked with somebody who worked then later on for a small IT consulting company in the data center space. So that’s when I joined them. And because of that connection, I started to learn more about Schneider Electric and met several people.

And they started to realize, “You know what? We need somebody at Schneider Electric in Southern California who can help calling on the consulting and engineering community, helping them to create more energy efficient data center solutions, and promote obviously the Schneider portfolio.”

 And I started talking to Schneider Electric. And I left that small consulting firm and I joined Schneider Electric, which was 10-plus years ago. So that’s how the whole transition from growing up in the boonies in Frankfurt, or near Frankfurt, to going to near London, back to Munich, Los Angeles. And all of a sudden, I joined Schneider Electric.

So I joined Schneider 10-plus years ago in Los Angeles. And now, three years ago, my wife… No, actually, it was five years ago, my wife knew that I wouldn’t really want to leave Los Angeles because it’s a nice place, we had a nice home built over there. And she knew that the only time I would want to leave, actually, is if I were to go back to Europe.

And we thought about going to England, make it easier from a language perspective. But never really worked out. But anyhow, so she came back one time, visiting some family here in Colorado. And she came back and said, “Hey, Carsten. Somehow I got this inspiration, and how do you feel about us moving to Colorado?” And I said, “You know what? I’m in.”

Raymond Hawkins: It’s a little closer to Europe.

Carsten Baumann: So then we started looking-

Raymond Hawkins: Not a lot, but a little closer.

Carsten Baumann: … Not a lot. But yeah, a little bit closer. But for whatever reason, Los Angeles is great, and there’s so many challenges. Everybody says wherever they live, that their traffic is bad. I lived in Los Angeles for 19 years, and I’ve driven in many other countries around the world and yes, there’s lots of traffic. Los Angeles is a nightmare.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah, no question.

Carsten Baumann: Because in Los Angeles nothing is about, how far is it away? It’s about, when do you want to be there? Do you leave on a Monday morning? And I only lived 20 miles away from the airport. But sometimes it took me two hours to get to the airport. So it was just really, really tough. So I was open to the idea. So hence, we looked for land, and we bought a piece of land with a beautiful view and started building a house. And here we are.

Raymond Hawkins: How long have you all been in Colorado?

Carsten Baumann: Just a little over three years right now. So we moved in May of 2019, just before the pandemic, which is also interesting. Because we built a home. My wife, she has her own business, and so we built our house. And we have two offices in our home. So that’s how we created it when we designed it with the architect. And her office is on the other side of the house. So we don’t really interact with each other than we coming together in the kitchen.

And on our office doors right now, for example, we have these, what you normally would find in a hotel where you have these, “Do Not Disturb” signs on the outside. So my door is closed right now and the sign is there, “Do Not disturb.” She does the same thing because we all work from home.

But it was fortunate because we set ourselves up for working from home in a whatever semi-professional way. And then when the pandemic hit, nothing really changed for us. We had our offices, the infrastructure, everything. The only thing we didn’t do was traveling. So in that regard, we feel very fortunate not working from the kitchen table and the kids running around and everything.

And it’s tough, tough situations for many people, many families. So in that regard, it worked out for us. And then, of course, living here in Colorado, where you mentioned earlier where we can go simply hiking and everything was shut down, and we’re like, “Okay. Well, let’s go more hiking.”

Raymond Hawkins: What a beautiful place to be outside at the end of the workday. What a great place. So I’ll tell you my main connection to Colorado. So down here in Dallas, Texas, we’re in the midst of today’s the 59th day with no rain. I think we’re already up to 42 or 43 100-degree days for the summer.

And it gets to the point that it’s unbearable. We got another month of 100-degree weather. And so lots of Texans, lots of folks from Dallas go to Colorado for a week or two. Some of my friends go up there for a month because the weather is so much more mild in the summertime.

So love it up there. I’ve gone several summers in a row now. Go to Estes Park. So not terribly near you but your direction, that’s for sure. And I love it up there in the summer, you get up there at 8,000 feet, and it’s just totally different environment than it is down here.

Carsten Baumann: Yeah. We are living 6,700 feet, our elevation here where I live.

Raymond Hawkins: Great stuff. Well, thank you for giving us a little bit of how you got to the US, how you got into the data center business. Here at Compass, we love Schneider. You guys are an incredible partner for us. Let’s transition, if you’re willing, a little bit to talk about some of the stuff that we do together, our two organizations.

If you’re willing, let’s talk about microgrids first. For us, the idea of power generation on site, being able to put power back on the grid, being able to have reliable power with the grid goes down, that whole concept. Would you just take a few minutes? With 100% certainty, know you understand it better than I do. So will you talk a little bit about microgrids?

Carsten Baumann: Yeah. This is a very interesting question. And I remember five years ago, four-plus years ago, I was moderating a panel at an FCOM conference in Los Angeles, and it was about microgrids. And this is the data center folks sitting in there. And so we’re talking about microgrids. And I would say at that point, probably, 99-plus percent of all the people in the audience had no idea what we were talking about.

What is a microgrid? And you just mentioned it, the ability to generate power on site, and then work in conjunction with the grid. So the definition of a microgrid has all evolved. But as we understand it now, it’s like something where we have a combination of distributed energy resources, like local energy generation assets we can use in case when the grid goes down. Which one could say, “Well, wait a minute, then every data center with a diesel backup generator is a microgrid, because power goes out and we fire up the generator and then we do it ourselves.”

Which is true. But the extended definition of a microgrid is also that you can work in conjunction, in parallel, with the utility grid. So now that’s different to how most of the data centers are operating today because in the data center space, we are simply an off-taker of utility. So whatever capacity and quality and price associated to that electricity is, we take it from the utility company and then we build our own resiliency strategy, typically with diesel backup generators just in case something does happen to the utility power so we can maintain our operations.

But now, because there’s many aspects where we look at sustainability. And I think microgrids really solve for three different components. One, is greater resiliency, which we all want in a data center. We want to have more reliability, resiliency. That’s number one. Number two, which is a huge factor as well right now, and becoming more and more prevalent and important is sustainability.

So we want to operate our business in a more sustainable way. And then, from a data center perspective, we are looking at power purchase agreements to buy green electricity for our consumption. But then we are also considering about what is the Scope 1 emissions, like these diesel generators on site. Is this the right solution moving forward in terms of our sustainability objectives?

And they’re not only our sustainability objectives; they’re frequently mandated by our clients or your customers moving into your data centers. Your investors, they’re also looking into like, “Hey, what are you doing to become more sustainable?” So sustainability is the second key component in those vectors of a microgrid. And the third one is overall, of course, cost and cost benefits.

So it’s like this wheel. Ideally, we want to have everything. We want to be more sustainable, we have greater resiliency and it ought to be cheaper. Everything in engineering, there’s always a few trade-offs. And we just recently worked on a feasibility study with you to specifically look at a site in Dallas, in Texas about how can we create greater resiliency, more sustainability, and what are the implications of the cost associated with that?

So that’s something we’ve just done recently with you guys. So that’s when I look at data centers. So now, fast forward to where we are today versus four and a half years or four-plus years ago when I had this first panel at AFCOM conference where the majority of the folks didn’t know what a microgrid is.

I think the majority of the people, because of the education that happens over time, people now do know what a microgrid is. The question we are seeing now more and more where we work with clients is about what would a microgrid look like for us, and what can it do? Because it’s specific to sites and fuel sources available, specifically.

So I believe that site selection for data centers will be expanding the criteria in order to also meet sustainability aspects. Being able to do on-site power generation when the electricity is expensive, we may be able to produce it cheaper ourselves, more sustainable. So the carbon intensity of our own electricity is less than the carbon intensity of the electricity we buy from the utility company.

So I think there’s lots of benefits. Now, one of the interesting challenges, so to speak, is operational. Because many of the data centers, it’s about uptime, meeting the service level agreements with your clients. And over the last decades, and all the engineering and design we’ve done in data centers, we have, what I would call, a static sequence of operation.

Utility fails, we detect it. We send a signal to the generator, they start it up. In the meantime, the UPS carries us over. And then when their generator’s up and running, typically less than 10 seconds, we switch over. And then we have backup power, everything’s fine.

And then, when the utility power comes back online for a certain period of time and stable, then we switch back to the utility power, we shut off the generators and here we go. So this is what I would call a very static sequence of operation.

If we now have multiple onsite assets, hopefully sustainable, and now because they’re sustainable, they can now work in conjunction with the grid instead of just having a backup power diesel generator permitted this way, we can now use those assets differently. So now we have the ability to power them up and let’s say, it’s combinations of fuel cells and then battery energy storage systems, maybe it’s natural gas or fueled by renewable natural gas.

So we have all these different assets. So now we need to look into affordability, might also be a component, obviously. Now we need to look at all these assets, what is available? For how much? So when I charge, discharge batteries, where do I get the power from? So we need to make these dynamic decisions, which, today, may look different than tomorrow because energy prices tomorrow might be different.

Especially, in the ERCOT market, you have four coincident peak charges throughout the year, so at certain times it’s different. So today’s operation might be different than yesterday. So that’s what I would call a very dynamic sequence of operation.

So think about the operator needs to transition from what was clearly designed, tested, validated, commissioned. And we know we have our standard operating procedures to work in the existing environment. And now, we implementing a dynamic sequence of operation with some artificial intelligence algorithm supporting the decision-making.

All of a sudden, utility power’s available and in your electrical yard, the generators start firing up, the fuel cells start humming. And you’re like, “What’s happening? What’s going on?” And now we’re buying only 50% power from the utility company, we’re producing 50% of ourselves.

And so therefore, there’s another layer of complexity, there’s another layer of risk. And we need to help [inaudible 00:22:13] communities and the operators in this transition process. Let’s start crawling, walking and then running towards these kind of new capabilities, these new possibilities to meet those three key criteria about sustainability, resiliency and cost. That’s a long story [inaudible 00:22:33].

Raymond Hawkins: That was a great description, Carsten. I’m interested to see, you related to that AFCOM conference. Five years ago, no one was… Microgrids, 99% of the room, didn’t know what you were talking about. It is talked about today, but I still don’t think we’re to the point where customers are comfortable with that dynamic environment that you described.

 I’m constantly deciding, right? Customers like standard mops, they like standard sequence of operations, they like to go, “Everybody’s read it, everybody agrees. Yes, let’s do that.” And when it gets off of that checklist or that standard sequence of operations, people get nervous, “Hey, I’m not… Who’s going to make that value judgment? How are we going to decide? Who’s deciding? When are they deciding?”

And I think that the dynamic environment sets much better up for the two of the goals. I think it sets up much better for sustainability, much better for cost. But the customer’s got to get comfortable that, “Hey, we’re weighing these factors, and we’re weighing them responsibly. And at the end of the day, we’re still going to hang on to the first one. We’re still going to hang on to resiliency. We’re just going to hang on in a more sustainable and more cost-effective method.” And I think getting them comfortable that resiliency isn’t going to be degraded, is still something we’ve got to figure out.

Carsten Baumann: And data centers, hospitals and others, resiliency needs to be equal or better. It can’t be like, “Oh, yeah. It’s more green but it’s not as reliable anymore or as resilient. Yeah, I’m not quite sure because I’m losing a lot of revenue and reputation if things go down.” So therefore, resiliency is of the utmost criteria. So it has to be equal or better, which we can achieve.

Because when you have multiple assets, multiple fuel sources, you can improve on your resiliency overall. So it’s certainly possible. Now, the other thing which is, as I mentioned earlier, site selection is access to energy, land and whatever. That also becomes a criteria for site selection. So for example, if I want to run, let’s say, combination of some sort of battery energy storage system and natural gas, I need to have access to natural gas.

Now, it’s one thing if I build a one megawatt data center, and I can feed this from a distribution gas line. But if I have a 100 megawatt data center, now I need to have access to a transmission line. So where is this transmission line? If this is five miles away, then this is really not a cost-effective option because now you would need to dig five miles under streets and whatever to get enough gas to your site.

So therefore, it will become part of the site selection in the future. And as a result, one location A, B and C, their, so to speak, microgrid solution or alternative, may look different. So what may work financially and from a fuel availability perspective in Texas, may not work in Santa Clarita, in the Bay Area, in California or in the Northwest or in New York. Or some of our large data center customers, they have battery energy storage system and gigantic photovoltaic. Well, you need a lot of land. That certainly will not work in an urban environment, like in New York.

So therefore, if you have operations, yes, in the desert and in New York, the solution may look different, which then also makes it more challenging because what we like in data center design, as time to deploy is critical, we want to standardize it as much as possible. So we don’t want to recreate like, “Okay, it’s different everywhere,” and all of a sudden, the standard operating procedures are different in location A versus location B.

So there’s a lot of things. However, I think we have this tipping point or this inflection point where we know that the way we’ve done it in the past, is most likely not the way we’re going to do it in the future. So we’re just at this point. There’s a lot of questions. We don’t have answers to all of them, obviously. We can’t solve it ourselves, by ourselves. So it’s a larger community that we all need to work together, including the utility companies.

I’m bringing up an example. Not a data center, but it’s a mission-critical facility in Southern California and near San Diego. So the Naval Air Station Miramar, they have a large microgrid installation. They have a landfill, they have multiple. They have photovoltaic, they have gas turbines, even including diesel generators. They have different battery technologies.

Their objective is they have to be mission-ready for 21 days, independent of the utility companies. So if things go out, nothing happens, they have to be operational for 21 days. So more than what we typically see as a resiliency strategy in a data center, 24 hours or 48 hours and so forth. So what happened in 2020, this is a little bit ago, summer. SDG&E, they had to institute rolling blackouts because there was more demand than they have generation assets available.

And although the microgrid wasn’t really designed for participating in this, but what they were able to do, they were exporting excess power they were able to generate on site, and supporting the surrounding communities. So therefore, think about further, this is a 3.2 megawatt installation.

But think about now 50 megawatts, 100 megawatts of a data center capacity where, if it’s not a diesel generator, we have assets on site we can deploy. And we may not need all the 100 megawatt resiliency we have on site. Maybe we only need 80 for right now. The load’s only 80.

We could export 20 megawatts into the grid, and help the surrounding communities and the grid to stabilize it, avoid blackouts. Think about from a life safeties perspective, from a comfort of people.

So the data centers are not only becoming these hungry, evil things, they sit somewhere in the neighborhood. But they actually can contribute to the better life quality, I should say. Because life is on, as we say at Schneider Electric. And if there is no electricity, there’s not much happening.

Raymond Hawkins: Carsten, it’s one of the things I hear my friends in the immersion cooling business talk about, “Hey, we’re producing so much of this heat and we can use this heat to heat homes and whatnot.” The idea that, “Hey, we’re not just taking power off the grid, we’re not just impacting the carbon footprint, we’re doing things to support the community and contribute back.” And I think that’s exactly what you’re describing.

And the Miramar example, I love that these assets can be used to contribute, especially in difficult circumstances. Especially when there’s stress on the system. Well, if you’ll let me transition, I still have two more subjects I’d like to talk with you about.

So we’ve touched a good bit on sustainability, as we talk about microgrids. But I know that that’s a passion of yours at the data center level, things about sustainability. But I don’t just want to… there, I also want to have time for us to talk about flying airplanes. So we got two more subjects we’re going to hit on. So take sustainability for a minute.

Carsten Baumann: Sure. Sustainability, whatever one believes in, whether climate change is related to our humankind pollution of the planet and whatever, or not believe into it. I’m looking at it simply by looking at the news and the weather. You mentioned excessive heat, we’re looking at floods and storms.

And at least, from my perspective, I’m only on this planet for a little bit over 50 years. But if I’m looking back from Europe to where I grew up to here, and all the time that happened, it appears to me, at least, something is changing. Whether this is manmade or has some other effects, I’m not the scientist who can actually support either of those kind of claims.

 But personally, I’m passionate about sustainability. So for example, when we built our home over here, I have two incandescent light bulbs in my house. And these are the nightstands in our guest room downstairs, which are hardly even used. But everything else is just LED lights and energy efficient. And I made design decisions and implementations decisions about insulation of the house, the materials I’m using.

So to be more and more sustainable, to have less of an impact on the environment. Because by the end of the day, ideally, we want to leave the planet in a better state than when we found it when we were born. And now, we have these energy days, and we see how many days a year until we are actually now consuming more and actually contributing to a further decline of resources.

And there’s this one quote, and I’m butchering this a little bit right now. But it’s basically, “Only when mankind killed the last fish and cut the last tree and poison the last river, we will realize we can’t eat money.” So there’s this balance between yes, it has to make financial sense. But at the same time, we can’t just do everything on the cost of nature.

So we have to find the right balance. And I think we are also at this inflection point, we have to act now in order to reduce climate warming and so forth. So whatever we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other kind of elements. And I think the United Nations, they have sustainability development goals, and there are 17 of them. And clean access to water, energy efficiency.

These are only two of them. But it’s avoiding hunger and social justice, diversity, inclusion. There’s multiple elements, they all relate to sustainability. It’s not just buying green power from a wind farm or from a solar farm. So there’s more to us. And I really subscribe to it on a personal level. And I’m glad that I have the ability to work at Schneider Electric in a field where, what I’m passionate about, they actually pay me money for it.

So I actually really like it. And the good thing is that I’m getting some money because that is the other topic you talked about. It helps me to finance one of my hobbies, which I understand you have a similar passion. It’s about flying airplanes. So I really like this. So I think sustainability is helping us. And we see the same thing in sustainability efforts in terms of flying. So the big airlines, the Boeings, the Airbus, they’re all looking at alternatives to burning jet fuel.

The general aviation area is looking into electrical-driven propulsion for planes, especially for learning, for student pilots where you don’t fly long distances, so therefore you have different opportunities and possibilities. They’re looking at hydrogen as well, fuel cells to propel, for propulsion in planes. So I think there’s a lot of effort in so many different industries. And I can’t wait to fly an electrical plane; not a remote control plane.

Raymond Hawkins: The first time you do that, that’ll be different.

Carsten Baumann: That’s right. No noise pollution, so it’s quiet and whatever. So you don’t even know if the engine’s working or not. You can’t hear it anymore.

Raymond Hawkins: Well, I was just going to say that’s one of the things with a car, I hadn’t even thought about an electric propulsion plane. I’m used to feeling the plane, feeling the RPMs, feeling the engine. That’s part of the feedback mechanism. And if that all goes electric, the mixture and the RPMs, won’t have as much feel on an electric plane. That’s a unique thought.

Carsten Baumann: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. So you hear the RPM of the engine. And when the RPM, you can hear it, it goes down and you can look at what your speed does. So you don’t need an indicator. You see, “Hey, look, if I’m flying level, but the RPM goes up, something isn’t right.” So therefore, there’s an indication, a sensory system gets simulated in a way that helps us to make decisions.

 Especially in times when, let’s say, an instrument fails and all of a sudden, we have to rely on all of our sensors. And I remember when I worked in maintenance and repair, you work with all your sensors. You look at it, you smell it, you hear it. So it gives us clues in terms of, “Hey, what might be wrong here?” So it’s all electric, we can’t hear anymore the engine. So it just hums away.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. So Carsten, tell me what got you excited about flying? And tell me one good pilot story.

Carsten Baumann: Well, what got me excited about it, remember this goes all the way back when I was six, seven, eight-years-old back in Germany, outside in the boonies. So the German Luft Air Force, whatever they call it. Luftwaffe, I think. So they were flying F-104, it’s the Starfighters. They call them Starfighters.

And they were screaming loud back then. And then where we lived, apparently, sometimes there was a training area above us. And these jets were flying around, whatever they did, and screaming loud. And all the neighbor kids we were playing with, they were running inside like, “Ah,” they’re screaming.

 And I was standing in awe in the field, looking at those planes and like, “That’s what I want to do.” But then I became an engineer, so I didn’t become a pilot for Lufthansa. But I became an engineer. But now, eight years ago, I decided, “Why not now?” So I started making my pilot’s license in Los Angeles, which is a very complicated airspace with all these different airports.

And Los Angeles is there, and Burbank and John Wayne and Ontario. So that’s where I started. I did my private pilot’s license. And then after that, of course… Not of course, but I wanted to continue. So I did my instrument reading so that you can fly solely by the reference of looking at the instruments, so you can fly through clouds and stuff like that, without looking outside.

And that’s challenging in itself, and there’s a lot of regulations you have to maintain because now, you have to follow the rules that air traffic control can separate the traffic view from others. And then I did my commercial license, so I’m a multi-engine, high-performance, complex multi-engine, whatever. Commercial airline rated pilot. So what they say, once you get your private pilot’s license, it’s a license to learn.

 So more. The same way we get a driver’s license. Just because somebody’s 16-years-old, and they got their driver’s license, doesn’t mean they’re a good driver. So they have to learn more and get more experience. And that’s how we do it. Many of us, you and I. And I still fly 172s today, Cessnas.

So they’re slow. And then, all of a sudden, if you start flying faster planes, which is amazing, because you don’t really feel the difference. When you fly at 10,000 feet, whether you fly 90 knots or 180 knots, you don’t feel anything different other than you get to your destination twice as fast, right?

Raymond Hawkins: Right.

Carsten Baumann: However, when you do get somewhere, everything happens faster. You’re approaching the airport faster, you have to make the turns faster. And I remember the first time I flew a twin engine, which is also another challenge. So now we have two engines, and there’s different elements here and consideration, safety perspectives and so forth.

So all of a sudden, you’re more complex. There’s a task situation that can happen where all of a sudden, there’s so much things that need to happen. And if you have less time, then you have to get used to it. And I think that’s similar to what we talked about data center operations. So sure, maybe tomorrow is different than today. I have to get used to it. I have to train for it, I have to prepare myself for it, I’ve studied for it.

I love it. I love going into a cockpit of these… Now we have all these glass panels in these planes. And I love technology. I just love understanding it, working with it, having the communication with air traffic control. And then a few weeks ago, I flew from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins. And I flew over a house where I live here right now, and then I flew all the way the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

And it’s just absolutely gorgeous. I love it when you sit there, and you see the world in 3D. You see the world differently. You interact with our world in three dimensions now. It’s not just forwards, backwards, left and right. But now we can go up and down, and you have a different vantage point. You look down at stuff, and then you have the mountains here where the snow covers. It’s just absolutely gorgeous.

Raymond Hawkins: Carsten, you’re talking about the different vantage points. So I’m going to do a pilot story for me. So I was flying in Africa, and the roads are poor, very tough road system. And so to take long journeys in Africa, oftentimes, we’ll just take the plane. And the first time I got up 15, 17,000 feet in Africa, and realized there’s just the vastness of Africa, how incredibly spread out it is, how incredibly big it is, and also how undeveloped it is.

You fly in North America, and there’s roads and there’s cities and there’s all kinds of development, all kinds of things that give you landmarks. And you fly over Africa, it’s green for thousands of miles. So you’re like, “Holy cow, this place is big.” So yeah, that whole different perspective that when I’m walking the roads in Africa, I just don’t appreciate.

Carsten Baumann: Yeah. No, I agree with you. And of course, it’s different if you fly in Los Angeles where I started to learn to fly, or you fly in Wichita, Kansas. So you get more easily lost in Wichita, Kansas than in Los Angeles. Because you have some mountains, there’s the ocean, there’s downtown, Malibu, whatever, Santa Monica. You can figure it out. You’re flying in Kansas and it all looks the same.

Raymond Hawkins: The cornfield looks like every other cornfield. That’s right.

Carsten Baumann: That’s right. Absolutely. And here’s the interesting thing about flying, and you asked about the story. So there are four fundamental forces of flying. So in the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration defines it. So one is lift, so that is a vector that goes up that brings the plane up. The other one is weight that brings the plane down because of gravity. And then there’s the forward propulsion that’s thrust.

It’s typically the propeller or the jet engine, whatever. And then there’s drag. Because we move an object through a fluid air. So it’s drag. So these are the four fundamental forces in flying. However, from a pilot’s perspective, we look at the same four dimensions rather differently.

So number one, we look at thrust is money. The more money I spend on flying, the faster I can fly. The FAA, the regulators, that’s the drag. They’re holding us back. And then the lift, these are our dreams. “Oh, man, I want to fly a six-passenger jet.” So these are the dreams.

Raymond Hawkins: But I want to be at 40,000 feet. I want to do it way up there too.

Carsten Baumann: And then there’s reality that brings us back. So these are the four fundamentals of flight from a pilot’s perspective.

Raymond Hawkins: I love it. My father, who is an aerospace engineer, he would tell me all the time, he said, “Hey, Raymond. We can put anything in space we want. It’s just a matter how much money we want to spend to put it up there.” It’s all about getting thrust to get the weight off the ground, lift it and get it through the atmosphere. He’s like, “We can put anything up there we want. It’s just how big is it going to be and how much it’s going to cost to get it up there.” Yeah, good stuff.

Carsten Baumann: And then ultimately, does it make sense, right?

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. Is there economic viability to have it up there?

Carsten Baumann: That’s one of the reasons why supersonic flight right now is challenging and companies are working on it because the economics is tough.

Raymond Hawkins: Just not economically viable yet. Well, fascinating conversation. I love that we share the passion for flight, love the sustainability talk. Really appreciate you joining us. Again, we just want to say, publicly, how grateful we are with our partnership with Schneider Electric. It’s a tough time. It’s a tough time to be trying to deliver our customers’ equipment and demands.

And the global supply chain’s hurt us all. And you guys have just been a fantastic partner through that. And we’re super grateful for that, and grateful for the same vision about, “Hey, how do we deliver the technology to the customers and do it in a sustainably responsible way?”

Because at the end of the day, I hear all this talk about your industry burns up all this power. Hey, we’re just burning power for the apps people want. We’re really just supporting the global e-commerce, the digitization of our planet. And we just want to do it as a responsible way as possible. And you guys help us with that. So thank you for that.

Carsten Baumann: Yeah. And likewise. I think what really is fantastic, in my opinion, is having a real good partnership between, let’s say, your Compass, us, Schneider Electric and many others. And you have other partners, obviously. But it’s the partnership. So where we can plan together, we can trust each other and we are transparent with each other to whatever extent we can be transparent as public-traded companies and so forth.

But we are helping each other. So to me, a partnership like we have between Schneider Electric and Compass is like a win-win situation. It’s a non-zero zone game. So one and one equals three. And I think if we can all work together with our partners in this whole ecosystem, in the data center space, whether this is about technology or sustainability or overcoming supply chain issues, we can actually make it work. And I think, although it’s a really challenging time right now, and I remember two years ago, I said the word for me two years ago, was unprecedented.

We haven’t seen this before. Well, today it’s July 2022, I still think we’re in unprecedented times. And in a year from now, it will be unprecedented as well. So therefore, if we have a partnership, we are all sitting in the same boat. We can make it work. And sometimes the biggest challenges are the greatest opportunities.

And we have challenges at our hands, and we have to have the opportunity to make it work, to work with it. So to do the best out of it. And that’s what I do. I try to wake up every morning and tell myself, “Today I’m doing the best thing I can do today.”

So I don’t want to get bogged down with, there’s so much things going wrong in the world. So it could easily paralyze us, but we have to move forward. So that’s what I’m doing. And being in a partnership with companies like yours, it makes it all worthwhile.

Raymond Hawkins: Awesome. Carsten, we really appreciate you joining us, and it’s been good stuff. And we look forward to talking to you again in the future. Thank you.

Carsten Baumann: Sounds good, Raymond. I really appreciate it.

Raymond Hawkins: Awesome stuff.