FOCUS on POWER
BRIDGING THE ENERGY GAP
One solution to this would be to view the currently available options as a stop-gap along the way to a greener future. “The transition away from conventional fossil fuels is inevitable; I mean, it has to be – they’re finite resources,” Watkins explains. “Today’s technologies could help bridge that gap, buying a bit of time in the short to mid-term while better strategies are developed.”
As you would expect from an energy company, Emerson’s new data center on its campus in St Louis, Missouri, shows this can be an effective way to go, particularly when the renewable element forms part of a raft of energy efficiencies and sustainable technologies. According to Emerson the 350,000 sq ft facility is 31% more energy efficient than a traditional data center, with precision cooling products and state-of- the-art energy saving technologies playing their part in achieving this – along with the largest array of solar panels on any commercial building in the state. The 550 individual panels in this 100kV (DC) PV installation occupy some 7,800 sq ft of roof space – roughly a quarter of the available area – providing around 15% of the cente’rs power requirements and contributing to a stated uptime of 99.982%.
A COMMITMENT TO RENEWABLES Emerson is not alone in its efforts, according to Mark Larard, director of the data center advisory group for global real estate advisors
Jones Lang LaSalle. He said he has seen a rising trend in the number of partnerships and alliances being made between traditional IT and power and new renewable companies.
One solution to this would be to view the currently available options as a stop-gap along the way to a greener future
Four years ago, for instance, the American giant Power-One acquired the Italian Magnetek Power Electronics Group. Today the ‘Power’ division concentrates on Power-One’s conventional fare of servers, data storage, routers and optical networking, while the Renewable Energy division concentrates primarily on PV. ABB, one of the world leaders in power and automation. ABB recently opened its fourth wind generator factory and in November 2010 invested US$13m in UK wave energy company Aquamarine Power.
In addition to exploring geothermal power, Google has also been busy filing patents on offshore data centers powered by waves while Morgan Stanley has teamed up with Atlantis Resources, makers of the world’s largest tidal turbine, to work on Project Blue, a planned US$400m off-grid data center in northern Scotland. This is a particularly ambitious scheme and could involve submerging up to 400 turbines. - with a total
generating capacity of 400MW. It is to be located in the Pentland Firth, where 40% of the UK’s 18TWh/yr (tera-watt hour per year) of technically extractable tidal current resource is concentrated. If successful, in addition to servicing the power needs of the 30MW data center (which will also be chilled using free cooling), the project will provide an estimated 700 jobs and add a significant boost to the power infrastructure of the region.
There are even plans to make the entire fabric of buildings capable of self-generation. If Wales’ Swansea University/Tata Steel £20m development project goes according to plan, by 2020 special architectural coatings could be providing up to a third of the UK’s renewable energy – at a fraction of the cost of current PV technology.
“It might not be quite as efficient as a silicon solar cell,” project lead academic Professor Dave Worsley says. “The trick is to make it in a large enough area so that it is irrelevant.” His 50-strong research team of scientists, engineers and technologists are aiming to have a commercially viable product on the market within five years; the next generation of data centres may yet be supplying their own power.
Wherever you look, there seems to be a fast growing belief that renewables will be the way of the future, but the real question for data centre developers remains how does the business case shape up?
A small wind turbine made by Vestas
NGD’s data center in Wales, UK. Image courtesy of NGD
A large scale solar array (70,000 panels) capable of generating 15MW of solar power, for the US Federal Government
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