Energy Star reports to Congress on power use

The Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Program has released a report to Congress that assesses opportunities for improving energy efficiency in government and commercial computer servers and data centers.

EPA and industry stakeholders developed the 'Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency' in response to legislation enacted last year.
The consumption of energy is a concern in government and industry, especially as demand for data processing and storage continues to grow.

Data centers consumed about 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006 ' roughly 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, or about $4.5 billion in electricity costs ' the report states. Federal servers and data centers alone account for approximately 6 billion kWh or 10 percent of this electricity use, at a total cost of about $450 million annually.

Assuming current trends continue, by 2011 national energy consumption by servers and data centers is expected to nearly double.

Many technologies are commercially available or will soon be available that could improve the energy efficiency of microprocessors, servers, storage devices, network equipment and infrastructure systems, the report said.

'For instance, existing technologies and design strategies have been shown to reduce the energy use of a typical server by 25 percent or more,' the report said. In addition, implementing best energy-management practices in existing data centers and consolidating applications from many servers to one server could reduce current data center energy usage by around 20 percent.

Even greater energy savings are possible with advanced technologies, the report adds.

To develop a better understanding of opportunities that could accelerate adoption of energy-efficient technologies beyond current trends, the study explored three scenarios:
  • The improved operation scenario includes improvements beyond current trends that are operational in nature and require little or no capital investment. This includes measures such as eliminating unused servers, adopting more energy-efficient servers and enabling power management on all applicable servers. Better airflow management could improve site infrastructure systems such as power and cooling devices by 30 percent.
  • The best practice scenario represents the efficiency gains that can be obtained through the more widespread adoption of the practices and technologies used in the most energy-efficient facilities in operation today. For information technology equipment this scenario includes the implementation of all measures in the improved operations scenario, plus the consolidation of servers to a moderate extent and the aggressive adoption of energy-efficient servers. Infrastructure improvements of 70 percent could be achieved by implementing all measures in improved operation plus improving transformers, uninterruptible power supplies, chillers, fans and pumps.
  • The state-of-the-art scenario identifies the maximum energy-efficiency savings that could be achieved using available technologies. This scenario assumes that U.S. servers and data centers will be operated at maximum possible energy efficiency using only the most efficient technologies and best management practices available today. This means organizations would have to move aggressively to consolidate servers and storage devices and implement power management at data centers. Organizations could achieve up to an 80 percent improvement in infrastructure energy efficiency with the implementation of all measures in the best-practice scenario and the installation of direct liquid cooling and combined heat and power systems.

If implemented, the state-of-the-art scenario could reduce electricity use by up to 55 percent compared to current efficiency levels, the best-practice scenario could reduce electricity use by up to 45 percent and improved operational management could offer potential electricity savings of more than 20 percent by 2011, the report said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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