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Data centre project focuses on renewable energy model

Posted: 03 Aug 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:data centre  renewable energy  power consumption 

A Rs.3.01 crore ($675,000) collaboration project between companies like Hewlett-Packard Co. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., together with Clarkson University and researchers from the state of New York aims at creating a distributed system made of networked portable units located in various wind and solar farms to create a greener data centre that runs on renewable energy.

The project aims to find alternatives to dealing with the growing power consumption needs of large data centres. Large data centres are often located near traditional power plants to ascertain that they have enough electric supply.

"Power is expensive and it's becoming a constraint on data services, so we need to avert the industry from a collision point," said Steven Kester, director of government relations and regulatory affairs at AMD.

The researchers will study the feasibility of sharing workloads among portable data centres packed in shipping containers and based at various solar and wind farms. Their work may identify new ways of combining data and renewable energy services.

"There may be a new cost model here if a utility or a solar or wind farm operator through co-location of one of these portable data centres can export not just energy but data services as well," said Kester. Such a hybrid business model could also help bring broadband services to rural areas where solar and wind farms are often located, he added.

For several years computer makers have been selling complex sets of servers and switches packed in shipping containers as modular building blocks of data centres. To date, no one has tried locating such containers at geographically dispersed renewable energy plants.

The study will address the fact that solar and wind farms only generate power intermittently. So researchers will explore the economics of sharing jobs among different renewable energy farms linked by fibre optic networks.

In the first 12-18 months of the study, researchers will characterise on paper the trade-offs of power and networking costs of such a scheme. In a subsequent phase they will test out the concepts by locating portable data centres built by HP at multiple renewable-energy generation stations.

The group aims to discover new models that will lower costs, energy use and carbon footprint. The work may include developing software to help manage such large distributed networks.

- Rick Merritt
  EE Times

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