Paul Scheihing | DOE wants more of less
The technology manager of the Energy Department's Industrial Technologies Program discusses the government's current and future energy-saving plans.
- By Rutrell Yasin
- Aug 15, 2008
The push is on to improve energy efficiency at data centers.
Through its Save Energy Now program, the Energy Department and its
government and industry partners are seeking a 10 percent energy
savings at U.S. data centers by 2011.
DOE recently released a beta version of an online software tool
called Data Center Energy Profiler (DC Pro) to help identify
Paul Scheihing, technology manager for DOE’s Industrial
Technologies Program, discussed DC Pro and other efforts to promote
GCN: Can you explain what the Save Energy Now program is all
PAUL SCHEIHING: Save Energy Now is really about inspiring
industry to take action to save energy. But it is also trying to
make it easier for companies, manufacturing plants and data centers
to save energy. We basically offer a variety of energy-efficiency
resources, tools and information, assessments, training, and
technologies to achieve that end.
How it got started, at least the name of it, was when the
hurricanes hit in 2005 [and] caused a disruption in the energy
markets. That created the impetus for the secretary of Energy to do
something, and he got us to form teams that would assess 200
manufacturing plants. In the last year and a half, data centers
have been wrapped into the fold of this whole mission because there
is the realization that this is a growing area of energy demand
— about 12 percent a year. It is the most rapidly growing
part of our economy in terms of energy.
GCN: What are the challenges in tackling energy consumption
at data centers?
SCHEIHING: In the Energy Policy Act of
2005, there was a section that called for a 2.5 percent reduction
per year in the manufacturing sector over a 10-year period. Save
Energy Now has adopted that goal. With data centers, we can say it
is part of that goal. But it is actually a little challenging now
because how do you measure data-center efficiency?
The Green Grid, a global industry consortium, is working on
that. We are working in partnership with them and the Environmental
Protection Agency to come up with common metrics as well as
protocols for measuring improvement in the energy intensity of your
Green Grid has come out with a draft in terms of how to measure
the work productivity of the data center. [DOE’s] Pacific
Northwest National Lab is going to test it out…to see if the
protocols make sense.
We also need to be able to find the opportunities in a more
organized and deliberate manner, so people can prioritize all the
savings opportunities. Where do I go first? What are my best
opportunities? So with the DC Pro tool, we’re hoping that it
will be the key vehicle for data centers to look at the energy
[use] in their data center and understand what are the best saving
opportunities to focus on first.
GCN: DOE just released the beta version of the DC Pro tool.
What has been the response so far?
SCHEIHING: [As of early June, seven days after its release]
about 150 people from 125 companies had registered. We have a
number of companies that have agreed to dedicate their staff to try
the tool out. Green Grid members are putting resources forward to
test-drive the tool.
GCN: The Save Energy Now program recently conducted training
with General Services Administration staff in Kansas City. What was
the focus of that training?
SCHEIHING: It was basically teaching best-practice
techniques for managing energy in the data center. DC Pro was not
released yet so we kind of lightly touched on that. DC Pro really
brings to light the multitude of energy-saving opportunities you
can address in your data center, and that is what the course was
We look at the data center as four areas. The first is the
[information technology] part, that’s where the main
productivity takes place. [We discuss] how to optimize that,
virtualization, turning the servers off [when not in use] —
that kind of thing.
The second part would be power distribution and conversion: how
to minimize the number of transformers, optimize your voltage
— either AC or DC — in getting the power that comes
into the data center eventually to the servers.
Third would be the cooling and air management: [using] highly
efficient cooling units, managing your air, separating it out so
hot and cold aren’t mixing with each other.
The fourth, which we feel [brings] kind of a new opportunity to
the table, is an alternative to power generation. You’ve got
a third of the energy eventually delivered to the data center and
two-thirds lost generating power at the power plant. So if half the
energy goes to cooling and power distribution and the other half
goes to IT in a typical data center, then you’re really
talking about an overall source fuel energy efficiency of less than
15 percent. You lose two-thirds just getting it there.
By putting on-site generation at the data center facility, you
can potentially really optimize an overall energy system and use
the wasted heat from the power-generation system to drive
heat-activated absorption cooling. So we’re doing a
feasibility study on that to see if it makes sense.
GCN: You are also working to develop qualified specialists.
Who will they be and how is that effort going?
SCHEIHING: DOE is really trying to condition the market to
more effectively find energy- saving opportunities. So, for
example, instead of DOE sending in our experts, what we want to do
is certify the individuals who have expertise in data centers so
the market calls on them to offer services. So once we develop the
toolset, such as DC Pro, and develop a basic training [program],
then we can develop this Qualified Specialists program where we
offer them training and give them an exam after several days of
training to see if they pass the basic level of knowledge about
data-center energy-efficiency system principles.
We have to work it out in terms of those four areas of the data
center. We may have to segment things. Some people might be expert
in the cooling part; others might be more expert in the electrical
part. Maybe it won’t be one-size-fits-all.
But that’s going to take some time to develop, [in
cooperation] with industry. Eventually, we would like to have an
approach where non-DOE organizations would do the certifying.
GCN: Do you see this being carried over into federal data
SCHEIHING: Yes. We hope that federal data centers can call
on these people for services.
GCN: Are you working with industry on any innovative type of
SCHEIHING: We’re developing a research
and development program, and we’re going to have a workshop
in the fall to see what areas might be appropriate for DOE to work
on with industry.
GCN: Do you think you can achieve your goal of 10 percent
energy savings overall in U.S. data centers by 2011?
SCHEIHING: I sure hope so. I think this particular industry, [along
with] the Green Grid, the Uptime Institute and various
organizations seem to be pretty aggressive and well-positioned to
take on some of these things in partnership with the
We really want to accelerate things in the federal area because
there are hundreds of data centers there. It is a great opportunity
to benchmark performance across the federal sector. The federal
sector is willing to take longer paybacks and higher risks,
sometimes, with energy-related technologies and practices. So we
really want to get a few showcase sites.
Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.