Power Electronics

Demo Reveals DC Architecture Saves Data Center Energy

Pentadyne Power (www.pentadyne.com), a manufacturer of clean energy storage systems, is participating in a project at Sun Microsystems' Silicon Valley campus to prove that the nation's data centers can conserve massive amounts of energy by using a direct current (dc) architecture to run power-hungry servers. The demonstration project reveals that using dc power instead of ac can reduce energy needed to run data centers by up to 20%, while improving overall system reliability. Servers from major manufacturers have been tested to operate within the dc architecture.

The project draws on the experience of experts on energy and data center issues at several institutions. Participants include researchers and system engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the California Energy Commission, Sun Microsystems, Intel, Cisco, and Pentadyne.

With 17% of the nation's data centers located in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas, the massive reduction in energy utilization from dc-powering could help mitigate California's energy crisis and summertime rolling blackouts. On a nationwide basis, the reduced demand on utility power generation could cut yearly emissions of smog-forming NOx by two million pounds and reduce carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a billion pounds, according to US EPA utility power plant emission statistics.

The technology demonstration is being conducted at Sun Microsystems in Newark, Calif. Pentadyne supplied the flywheel-based clean energy storage system connected to a rectifier that converts the incoming utility grid ac into 400-V dc power. Pentadyne's fast spinning composite flywheel replaces conventional UPS battery banks that store energy to seamlessly continue power to the data center equipment in the event of a power disturbance.

According to a recent "High-Tech Means High Efficiency" report by Berkeley Lab, SEMATECH (www.sematech.org) and other industry leaders, data centers, which operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, have among the highest-density of energy-consuming equipment of any modern building.

"They can use 100 times the electricity of a typical office building on a square foot basis," says William Tschudi, the Berkeley Lab principal investigator for this project. "Energy costs of $1 million per month are not uncommon in large data centers that require megawatts of electricity."

The Berkeley Lab research team, which consists of project leader William Tschudi, Steve Greenberg, and Evan Mills, conceived the project and provided oversight for the demonstration's planning and design, which is being executed by private-sector firms Ecos Consulting (www.ecosconsulting.com) and EPRI Solutions (www.eprisolutions.com). The partner companies have provided technical advice, equipment and staff to set up the demonstration facility. Interested parties will be able to tour the demonstration facility by appointment at the Sun Microsystems campus in Newark, California, through August 2006.

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