Data centers need an extreme amount of power to operate efficiently, and the data centers of tomorrow are expected to require so much power that the Department of Energy is under pressure to try and figure out how to accommodate that need.
Data center power needs are forcing people in the industry to think outside the box, according to a recent DatacenterDynamics report. Apple (News - Alert) recently embarked on a massive solar array project that is said to the biggest of its kind for a non-utility purpose. And they’re not doing it in Arizona; they’re embarking on this challenge on 170-plus acres of property in North Carolina.
The LEED Platinum data center will draw its power from the solar array beginning in May. About 20 megawatts of power will be supplied by the photovoltaic cells used in the array. Staying on the renewable front, Apple is also installing a biogas fuel cell that will bring five megawatts to the party.
Further green practices will be employed with a chilled water storage system, free outdoor air conditioning, and automated LED lighting that will only be used when a sensor detects people in the room. About 15 percent of the new data center is constructed using recycled materials.
Apple said it’s embarking on these ventures because it is “committed to pursuing energy-efficient growth by increasing our renewable energy participation” as it works toward a “net zero” energy goal, not only at its data center in North Carolina, but at its facilities throughout the world.
The move comes as Apple, which is known for its handheld devices as well as the lightest laptop computer available, is reaching to consumer cloud services that require data centers. Data centers are massive undertakings, not only in terms of data center power needed to operate them, but also because of the overhead including fiber cables, servers, and warehouse space to house the operation.
As Apple considers its data center power needs, the company is committed to a phased approach to energy efficiency, which includes the solar and biogas, as well as finding partnerships within the industry and utility companies and renewable energy providers to provide power to its operations.
As many of the data centers currently in operation were built before there was a focus on efficient technology, concerns about power consumption was not a priority. By some accounts, as much as 40 percent of the power coming into a data center was wasted during the transformation and distribution process.
However, architects are designing green-grid centers that can achieve up to 90 percent efficiency to reduce the impact data center power can have on the company, the customer and the environment.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin