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Data Center Efficiency Parallels Paper Recycling

William Opalka

Lawrence Lab data center imageMention data center on the first Earth Day 44 years ago today and most people might think of the public library, if they grasped the concept at all. In 1970, much of the concern about the environment included bulging landfills and the more than 44 million tons of paper waste generated annually.

Today, much of the information formerly contained on paper is now in digital format, with an estimated 639,800 gigabytes of that information passing through data centers every minute.

In an Earth Day blog posted by Jeff Schnitzer, general manager, GE’s Critical Power business, he discussed recent trends in data center energy efficiency.

According to the EPA, data centers account for up to 2.5 percent of the total electricity generated in the US.

Technology innovations that contribute to energy efficiency of data centers include capturing free cooling, raising efficiency levels, using modular power and powering cell towers with hybrid energy sources.

Some examples include:

• About 30 percent of all data center energy is used to cool servers. Companies are investing in “free cooling” that draws in exterior ambient temperatures to keep data center systems cool.

• According to Frost & Sullivan, raising energy efficiency levels of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems in data centers from 90-98 percent can save the US $3 billion annually in energy costs.

• Containerized, or modular, data center and power protection units lets companies scale the capacity and energy use they need.

• Powering the world’s 640,000 off-grid cell towers with diesel generators burns more than 11 billion liters of diesel a year. Hybridizing a cell tower with batteries cuts fuel consumption at sites by up to 50 percent and can enable more towers worldwide to be powered by renewable sources such as solar.



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