Can HP & Intel Build The World’s Most Efficient Data Center?

As more energy management systems become automated, the search for a data center design that doesn’t gobble up absurd amounts of energy is heating up. For those organizations also concerned with serious scientific research, the issue is even more pressing. Big problems demand powerful computers, but these computers need lots of power and the perfect temperature in order to operate at top speeds.

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently used its governmental clout to recruit two top IT companies to aid in its quest for a super efficient data center. NREL has asked Hewlett-Packard and Intel to provide help it design a new energy-efficient high performance computer (HPC) system dedicated to energy systems integration, renewable energy research, and energy efficiency technologies.


Image via NREL

According to NREL, the new HPC system will cost about $10 million and will reside at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), currently under construction on the agency’s Golden, Colorado, campus. Every effort was made to keep the data center’s design very compact, thus reducing the distance electrical and plumbing components must run. The project features a technology, currently under development, that uses warm water in the computing rack to efficiently cool the servers. “Waste heat” from the computer system will be used as the primary heat source in the ESIF offices and lab space, and possibly adjacent buildings.

This and other advanced design features mean the new data center could easily be the world’s most energy efficient, with a possible annualized average power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.06 or better. (The average data center operates with a PUE of 1.91, according to 2009 data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Program.) But that’s if they can really achieve it in real life. Some are skeptical that what seems like a powerful triple partnership will fail to deliver on its claims.

One thing’s for certain, however: the HPC’s petascale computing capability (1 million billion calculations per second) is the world’s largest computing capability dedicated solely to renewable energy and energy efficiency research.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

1 Comment

  • Reply September 12, 2012

    Peter Maier

    …Which will compensate how much for the carbon footprint of manufacturing all of the electronics contained therein? It will certainly not achieve anything even close to “carbon neutrality” before the computers become obsolete and need to be replaced by new ones with their own collossal carbon footprints. Still, doing something to improve is far better than doing nothing. Hopefully these ideas are applied and improved upon in many future construction projects.

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