Sunday, July 26, 2009

Xcel Energy Wants to Improve Efficiency of Data Centers

Submitted by: Heartland Energy Colorado

Written By Erin Mathe and CEN Staff

DENVER - Xcel Energy is introducing a new program designed to help Information Technology (IT) managers make energy efficiency a priority in their technology management strategy. The Data Center Efficiency program offers businesses cash rebates for commissioning a study to determine energy-saving measures and additional incentives for implementing the recommended changes.

Companies are facing huge growth rates in data storage, resulting in a 20 - 30 percent increase in energy consumption each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The agency also estimates that for every dollar spent on IT, companies spend 50 cents on related energy costs. By 2011, experts predict that businesses will spend as much on energy as they do on hardware.

“Whether managers are interested in demonstrating green business practices or simply want to save money on energy bills, efficiency is the best place to start,” said Xcel Energy program manager Ann Garbow. “Our studies can help identify energy saving opportunities in data center equipment, design and operational choices.”

The Data Center Efficiency program considers many things to reduce energy consumption:

♦ High-Efficiency Servers - Experts estimate that servers built to be focused on a more efficient power supply can be approximately 25 percent more efficient than the standard servers used today.

♦ Server Virtualization - Currently, the most common method for use of computer operating systems is to have one system per server. Virtualization software can consolidate several operating systems on one server (while making each system look like it’s still on its own unique server) at ratios as high as 30:1.

♦ Airflow Improvements - Proper placement of equipment and management of cable raceways can optimize airflow, reduce temperature hot spots in the data center, and reduce the cooling needed.

♦ High-Efficiency Cooling Equipment - Data centers, depending on their size, can obtain cooling from the overall building cooling plant, from dedicated computer room air conditioning systems, or both. Options exist for high-efficiency building cooling as well as new technologies for “in-rack” cooling of the data center server racks.

♦ High-Efficiency Lighting Equipment - Although lighting is generally a small portion of the total energy usage in the data center (around 5 percent), there is opportunity to install higher-efficiency lighting when retrofitting existing or designing new data centers.

♦ Humidity Controls - The key here is not to over control. Servers do not require tight humidity control and can be placed in rooms with relative high humidity without adverse effects. Ultrasonic humidification is the best option, as it uses less energy, requires less maintenance, and is better for the environment.

♦ Power Systems - Using efficient power supplies can save thousands of dollars per year, per server rack. Simply selecting a higher efficiency uninterruptable power supply (UPS) model can save tens of thousands.

Xcel Energy will fund a portion of the study and pay rebates as projects are completed. An approved third-party vendor will conduct an on-site energy evaluation and make recommendations on energy savings, help outline a business case for energy-efficiency investments and detail how to best run the data center at peak efficiency. The study also identifies energy savings, cost estimates and rebate amounts for bundled energy efficiency opportunities.

For those building a new data center at an existing facility, the study report will outline what implementation measures should be taken now to avoid costly retrofitting later. Cash rebates are earned after the energy-efficiency measures are implemented, offsetting the costs of capital improvements.

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