Establishing an impactful baseline energy reduction

19 October 2015 | Jim Lundrigan

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Jim Lundrigan

Blog Author | Electric Environments Corporation (EEC); VP mission critical facilities services


Today, many data centre owner-operators, particularly in the wholesale sector, are deploying primary power and cooling strategies that offer substantial energy savings, improvements in Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), and in some cases, the ability to run on their own “micro-grid” in order to achieve a baseline energy reduction.

Today, many data centre owner-operators, particularly in the wholesale sector, are deploying primary power and cooling strategies that offer substantial energy savings, improvements in power usage effectiveness (PUE), and in some cases, the ability to run on their own “micro-grid” in order to achieve a baseline energy reduction.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental action organisation, data centres nationwide used 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical energy in 2013, and are projected to use 139 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020. 

That 53% increase in just five short years will mean the equivalent annual output of 50 power plants, costing American businesses $13 billion annually in electricity bills and emitting nearly 100 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year.

Photovoltaics (PV) and wind power are among the sustainable energy sources that are becoming more commonplace within data centres to effectively reduce their carbon footprint and save money on electricity consumption, in keeping with their green initiatives. 

In fact, PV and wind can be incorporated into a 380V high voltage DC primary power system that includes storage and the ability to deliver power directly to computer equipment. In addition to eliminating power conversion requirements, this also provides the benefit of increased reliability due to reduced components. 

Fuel cells can also offer a primary power alternative, utilising natural gas or clean landfill gas, to provide a reliable and highly sustainable alternative to the grid, and can even connect to the micro-grid.

Baseline reductions can also extend to free cooling and renewable energy, translating into immediate savings for facilities.

Take Google, for example. After re-purposing a 60-year-old paper mill into a data centre in Finland, the American multinational tech giant reused the cooling infrastructure that drew water from a nearby bay to cool the facility’s equipment. 

The rise is indirect cooling solutions, such as adiabatic cooling, which enables data centre owner-operators to take advantage of environmental conditions without risk of airborne contamination when compared to direct air economisation.

Adiabatic cooling is the process of reducing heat through a change in air pressure caused by volume expansion. 

In data centres, adiabatic processes have enabled free cooling methods, which use freely available natural phenomena to regulate temperature. Highly efficient, pumped refrigerant systems provide both quick deployment and immediate savings. These systems replace aging Direct Expansion (DX) systems and present an alternative to a traditional chilled water system.

To get a better grasp of what baseline energy reductions can mean to a data centre’s bottom line, let us consider a 500kW critical load and a $.10/kW hourly cost. In this scenario, if a facility can reduce their PUE rating of 2.0, a $72,000 monthly cost, to just 1.8, the reduced total utility power will be $64,800, a monthly savings of $7200, or 100kW of increased capacity.

Establishing an impactful baseline energy reduction makes good fiscal sense, is consistent with the green and sustainable initiatives of our nation’s progressive data centers and their customers, and sets the stage for greater environmental responsibility going forward on behalf of the planet. On every level, it’s the right thing to do.