Green Data Centers Eyed In New York State

Data computing centers consume enormous amounts of power. An average commercial-sized data center draws around 1 megawatt (MW) of electricity during normal operations. In New York state, data centers account for 3 percent of all electricity consumed, and demand in the sector is expected to double over the next five years. Now, a group of academics, businesses and government organizations are coming together to make this high-energy-demand technology more energy efficient and cost-effective than current methods.

New York’s Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has partnered with Clarkson University, Advanced Micro Devices, HP and other private businesses to demonstrate how a network of wind- and solar-powered data centers could create a new model for data center and renewable energy operations. Total investment in this project is close to $675,000.

facebook data center

image via Facebook

The urgency of reducing energy use at data centers was brought home to Facebook last year, when environmentalists targeted the social-media giant for building a plant in central Oregon served by a utility that gets most of its power from burning coal. Facebook, however, maintains its Prineville, Ore., facility is “the most efficient data center in the world” because of cooling innovations and software that reduces demand for servers by 50 percent.

In New York, researchers are going in a different direction , experimenting with the concept of managing data through a network of servers powered by clean energy, such as wind turbines or solar systems. Backers envision the creation of a clean-energy-driven Performance Optimized Data Center (POD) system that could be available on a large scale to serve any potential customer – colleges, hospitals, corporations or any entity that requires data processing.

The distributed – or “cloud computing” – network is key to this project. For example, sites could be installed at wind turbine sites in Albany and Buffalo. If the wind is blowing in Buffalo, processing would be routed there. If Albany is generating more power, the processing would be routed there. Sending data over fiber-optic networks is far more energy efficient than moving power over transmission lines, even if the data is in another part of the country. And the distance would be invisible to the computer user doing the data processing.

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.