March 11, 2011 - powering data centers with renewable energy

Friday, March 11, 2011

What happens when you combine customer choice, voluntary renewable power markets, and electricity-hungry data center?

Data centers house computer systems for things like telecommunications and storage of large amounts of digital information.  I've written before about how much energy data centers can consume: in the case of the National Security Agency's Utah Data Center, estimates suggest up to 65 megawatts of electricity at any given time.  This demand for electricity can drive data centers to locate or relocate themselves in areas of lower power pricing.

Another possibility is for data centers to choose their electricity sources not based on pricing but on other characteristics, such as the sustainability of the power generated.  For example, IT services company Datapipe, Inc. recently chose to buy all its power for its US facilities from renewable sources.  This won them Leadership Club status in EPA's Green Power Partners program.  Datapipe buys almost 56,000,000 kilowatt-hours per year, all of which it now sources from renewable generation.  Assuming they run at an even electricity load 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that's an average of 6.4 megawatts of demand.  While that's less than the Utah Data Center's anticipated consumption, it's impressive to see a consumer choosing to buy 100% renewable electricity.

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