As more and more leaders push for restrictions to control carbon dioxide pollution, the push also is on for companies to reduce the amount of electricity they’re using to power data centers.
By one count, America requires 34 power plants — each generating 500 megawatts of electricity — to keep all data centers running today. That number is projected to grow to a total of 51 power plants of that size to meet data center energy demands in 2020.
So, where do we seem to be headed? Here are some interesting projections of how American plants can resolve those issues in 2016 and beyond.
- Non-enterprise companies will need to step up. All too often, those in the industry look to the larger companies to solve the nation’s problems with high rates of data center energy usage. Many large data centers are leading the way with innovative solutions, however, they only account for about 5 percent of all data center usage, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The environmental action organization released a report indicating that thousands of smaller facilities run by businesses, government entities and other corporations are contributing to most of the problems.
- Self-audit servers. According to the Uptime Institute, about 20 percent of racked IT equipment is doing nothing — essentially comatose because they’re running but not being used. Referring to them as ghost servers, Uptime hosted a contest, challenging data center managers to audit their systems to gain efficiencies. Barclay’s came in first, removing 9,124 physical servers in one year. As a result, the company was able to cut its annual power bill by more than $4.5 million; the servers were consuming 2.5 megawatts of power and could fill 588 server racks. Sun Life Financial retired 441 servers, replacing 54 of them with more energy-efficiency models and converting another 75 to virtual servers. As a result, the company saved $100,000 in energy costs.
- Explore alternative options. A survey released by the Emerson Network Power revealed that data center managers are optimistic about the future. Of 800 surveyed, nearly 25 percent predict their power for data centers will come from solar energy by 2025. That would be a significant climb from today, in which solar energy only accounts for 1 percent of data centers’ energy supply. Also, about 75 percent of the survey respondents predicted that at least 60 percent of computing will be cloud-based. They also predicted that renewable energy — including fuel cells, solar, wind, geothermal and tidal energy sources, would make up 50 percent of data centers’ power in 2025 — up from 10 percent today.
Those projections are revealing that IT managers are optimistic, “imaging some fairly large technical breakthroughs that are going to happen in the renewable space,” said Steve Hassell, Emerson Network Power’s president of data center solutions.