Data centers add energy savings

Data center energy use has become a target for both environmentalists and corporate accountants, with improved efficiency seen as critical to both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and financial returns.


Data center energy use has become a target for both environmentalists and corporate accountants, with improved efficiency seen as critical to both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and financial returns. Widespread recognition of the need to reduce facilities' electricity use is encouraging new levels of cooperation across an industry known for its competitiveness and secrecy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) is reaching out to data center operators to participate in the agency's effort to develop an Energy Star certification for these facilities, and 215 installations—all sized 1,000 sq ft or larger—have agreed to take part. The centers will provide information on their energy usage for 12 consecutive months, beginning June 2008.


Also in June, a number of centers presented their experiences with incorporating advanced energy-saving ideas into their day-to-day operations at a gathering organized by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the EPA. Many of these case studies involved new ways to keep server rooms cool. With chips becoming both smaller and more powerful, these spaces now can house a much larger number of servers, which has increased air conditioning demands significantly. Cooling has to become more efficient for these spaces to reduce overall electricity use.


Wireless sensing is providing a solution for Yahoo!, according to company representatives presenting at this conference. They said such networks can reduce cooling requirements because operators can raise thermostat setpoints, while monitoring temperatures at high-risk locations within the center to ensure hot spots don't occur.


According to a 2007 EPA report, data centers doubled their electricity use between 2000 and 2006, with the total reaching that of the entire U.S. transportation manufacturing industry. And in 2006, the nation's data centers' electricity bill reached $4.5 billion. If left unchecked, researchers said energy costs could rise to $7.4 billion by 2011. Our growing reliance on online services and recordkeeping has made reducing these facilities' electricity use a priority.

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