Energy 101: Energy Efficient Data Centers

You are here

Data centers provide mission-critical computing functions vital to the daily operation of top U.S. economic, scientific, and technological organizations. These data centers consume large amounts of energy to run and maintain their computer systems, servers, and associated high-performance components—up to 3% of all U.S. electricity powers data centers. efficiency improvements to data centers can produce significant energy savings and reduce the load on the electric grid.
Energy Department Video

ANNOUNCER:  It’s hard to imagine going back to a world without computers.  They store critical data for our everyday lives.

Now, the same is true for large companies, governments and organizations.  They couldn’t run without their data.  That’s why there are data centers across the U.S. that store and update all that information constantly.

But these centers use a lot of power to keep a world of data just a click away.  Up to 3 percent of all U.S. electricity powers data centers.  And as more information comes online, data centers will consume even more energy.

It’s a good thing energy-efficient data centers are becoming more popular.  They significantly reduce how much energy it takes to power our digital lives.

All right, so a data center is rows and rows of servers, storing information on chains of hard drives that run continuously.  They can get very hot.  That means they have to be cooled constantly.  Typically, expensive heavy-duty air conditioning does the job.

Things are much different in an energy-efficient data center.  Now, at first glance, it looks similar:  rows and rows of servers.  But take a closer look and you’ll see it’s quite different.  Instead of running all the time, these efficient servers switch to a low-power standby mode when they’re not in use.  In standby mode, efficient servers use a fraction of the electricity of standard servers.  They run a lot cooler, too. And new software tools can help optimize energy use.

In this data center, instead of using air conditioning, There are actually two different air treatment systems.

One system sucks hot air out of the data center.  In cold months, the heat is redistributed through the building’s duct work to help keep the rest of the building warm.

A second system pulls in fresh air from this vent.  The air circulates underground, where the constant temperature is about 54 degrees.  From there, the chilled air circulates through a completely separate system and cools the data center.  And fans circulate the cool air back through the servers.

Thanks to a climate right for these efficiency methods, this data center rarely uses air conditioning – only 33 hours throughout the entire year.  Keep in mind the data center is always working, 24/7.

OK, now here’s the real advantage.  For every watt your computer equipment uses, data centers require more than two watts of power.  But here, just one-tenth of a watt is needed.  Compared to a traditional data center of a similar size, this data center uses 81 percent less energy.

Regardless of your climate, you can realize big savings through smart data center design, and that’s good for the bottom line.