Data Centers Look For Ways To Fight Energy Costs

  September 8, 2011

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is to look beyond the server racks for energy savings in data centers.

The data center industry is booming. Construction is going on all across the country, the Internet is devouring bandwidth, and demand for cloud computing services is skyrocketing. But environmental responsibility and energy efficiency have become mainstays in commercial buildings, and when it comes to energy consumed per square foot, few commercial spaces can match the appetite of data centers.

To compound the problem, energy costs in some high-density locations have risen significantly over the past few years and many regions can expect further increases in the near future especially where deregulation is anticipated or has occurred. For example, in Maryland, utility rates increased from an average of 9 cents per kWh to almost 13 cents per kWh, while Pennsylvania is anticipating increases from about 8 cents to 10 cents. As a result, energy inefficient data centers are attracting the attention of corporations and government agencies, while a variety of other organizations are revising and creating standards to identify and enhance efficiencies in mission critical facilities.

While inefficiencies in data centers run the gamut, the majority of energy waste can be attributed to utilization equipment, with the second largest losses found in the mechanical system and uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Ultimately, a data center's overall efficiency begins and ends with an effective design for the mechanical and electrical infrastructure.

But before looking with those system, don't forget the basics. Effective design starts with an efficient building envelope. Although it is important to have a tight roof, it is just as essential to have a tight building slab, perimeter, and walls. A tight building envelope will allow for a central humidification system and effective air flow management to the cabinet.

Another basic, but easily ignored, key to efficiency is a lighting control system. These are value-engineered out of many projects, but installation of low-voltage lighting control systems and various lighting switching devices (such as occupancy sensors) can help manage the lighting load. Consideration should be given to high-efficiency lighting with low-harmonic ballasts, such as T5, LED lighting, dimming systems and flexible lighting control.


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