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Net-Zero Energy-Use Data Center is Focus of HP Labs' Research

By Nadine M. Post

This article first appeared on Engineering News-Record.

September 18, 2012

HP Labs, the research arm of computer technology giant Hewlett-Packard, is giving back to the environment. The lab has set a goal to develop a method for designing and operating a data center that would consume no net energy from the public utility grid over the lifetime of the facility.

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"This would take into account the building's embedded energy and operational energy," says Cullen Bash, director of ecosustainable systems for HP Labs, Palo Alto, Calif.

For the project to be a success, the data center would have to have a two-year payback period for the up-front investment in net-zero energy-use systems and, all the while, meet its service-level requirements. The data center is expected to use 30% less energy than most and reduce dependence on the grid by 90%.

The team's guiding principles include right-sizing the renewable power source, minimizing operations using a software methodology and implementing demand management regarding grid-power pricing.

"If you have a data center that peaks at 1 MW of power but only runs at the peak for a short period, it doesn't make sense to size the renewable power for the peak," says Bash. Right-sizing enables a two-year payback.

For the research, the team developed algorithms for a given power source to predict power output, cooling resources, demand and other relevant factors.

Bash says the next step is to execute the workload in a containerized 1.2-MW data center—a product made by HP. The project is going to wrap up late next year. After that, HP likely will take over. The ultimate goal is to bring a net-zero data center unit to market.

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