Computer hardware makers AMD and Hewlett-Packard announced today that they would work with New York state and a local university on a $674,000 effort to help data centers use more wind and solar power.
Over the next year and a half, researchers at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, will take two rapidly growing sectors of the energy landscape — data centers and renewable energy hubs — and try to resolve the obstacles that prevent them from working in tandem.
As businesses and individuals offload more and more of their computing work from their own hard drives to the “cloud,” the data centers that support all that computer work are growing fast, along with their electricity use. Greenpeace estimates that data centers gobble up 1.5 to 2 percent of the world’s electricity and are growing at a rate of 12 percent a year.
“We are rapidly approaching a collision point between demand for data and power consumption of the data center,” Steven Kester, a director for AMD, said in an interview. “Every time somebody hits on Skype or uses a video conferencing service at the office, they are driving demand at the data center. We are trying to arrest that growth and avoid the collision.”
Solar panels and wind farms could satisfy some of that demand, but data centers and renewable energy make an awkward pair. Data centers must be extraordinarily reliable and require electricity 24 hours a day, but wind farms and solar energy plants provide power only when the sun shines or the wind blows.
To solve this problem, researchers will experiment with shifting the processing of data from one center to another, depending on when nearby renewable energy is available. The project will be centered in New York, which is is home to more data centers than any state but California. Three percent of New York’s power goes to feed data centers, said Bryan Berry, the head of green data center research for NYSERDA, a state agency that conducts energy research.
Officials said the 18-month project won’t produce any usable product, but will lay out a roadmap for future research.
Article by David Ferris, appearing courtesy the Matter Network.