HP unveils its first net-zero energy data centre

BANGALORE: The world’s second-largest PC-maker Hewlett Packard on Wednesday unveiled its first net-zero energy data centre that promises to significantly reduce data centre power costs and energy requirements.

In an interview with ET, Chandrakant Patel, senior fellow and director (interim) at HP Laboratories, said the new model would require no net energy from traditional power grids. HP data centre plans to make use of solar and alternative renewable energy sources.

“If you look at some of the large data centres, they use about 7 megawatts of diesel generation. That is the amount of electricity which around 7,000 houses consume,” says Patel who has spent several decades of his career studying thermo-mechanical architecture and efficient energy usages.

“By setting up such a data centre you would be paying 2-3 times the total cost for electricity. That is what we wanted to change,” he added.

At a time when data centres continue to be one of the largest sources of IT carbon emissions, HP’s net-zero energy innovation hopes to operate using local renewable resources. This eliminates several factors such as location constraints, energy supply and costs. According to Patel and his team, this opens up the possibility of introducing IT services to organisations of all sizes.

“The vegetable vendor who visits my home in Baroda, the large refineries in the outskirts and sugarcane farmers in Gujarat will get to access the same advanced technology. With this, demand for bigger and better data centres are going to go up,” he added.

The data centre at HP Labs headquarters in Palo Alto in California, which uses solar and other local renewable sources, has served as the initial test bed for building this model. But what surprised Patel and his team was a recent visit to the nearby dairy farm — where 1,200 dairy cows could produce 500 kilowatts power.

“Livestock manure is better than probably all the other utilities. Large dairy farms and municipal waste dumps across India can take advantage of this,” he said. In winter, when the solar output falls significantly in California, the HP centre makes use of alternate energy sources, including gobar gas and wind.

If the sustainable data-centres team at HP Labs are able to convince organisations to switch to these zero-net energy data centres, Indian technology firms could significantly reduce their existing data-centre power costs and energy requirements, and explore newer ways of power generation.

The $2-billion market for information technology infrastructure in India, comprising servers, data-centres, storage and networking equipment, will benefit from this. The Indian IT infrastructure market is expected to grow over 10.3% over the next one year, according to research firm Gartner.

“Indian organisations are heavily focusing on optimising their infrastructure capacity by implementing virtualisation and incorporating newer ways of data centre design,” Gartner’s Research Director Aman Muglani wrote in a report earlier this month. The IT infrastructure market in India is expected to reach $3.01 billion by 2016.

According to HP, the zero-net energy centres also introduce a first-of-its-kind demand-management approach that allows the scheduling of IT workloads based on resource availability and requirements. For instance, non-critical and delay-tolerant work could be scheduled during daylight for data centres equipped with photovoltaic energy generation.

In recent years, an increasing number of companies have launched energy efficient data centres. In 2010, Britain based IT-hosting firm UKFast claimed to set up the world’s first carbon neutral data-centre, while Morgan Stanley proposed to build a centre that will be powered by tidal energy in the same year.

Search engine giant Google too has talked about this by investing over $800 million in clean energy projects. If reports are to be believed, iPad-maker Apple plans to convert its primary data-centre in the US entirely with renewable energy by end of this year.


  1. #1 by Ben (data centre design) on June 15, 2012 - 1:34 am

    In 2011, data centres accounted for approximatley 1.5% of the world’s total energy consumption. (http://www.datacentredesign.org) However the current trend in the increase in cloud computing will likely reduce the global energy footprint of data centres over the next few years. Cloud computing installations typically have much higher server utilisation levels and infrastructure efficiencies than in-house data centres.

  2. #2 by Leann Weigold on July 24, 2012 - 2:42 pm

    Renewable energy must be our focus these days because fossil fuels are getting more scarce. We must also not depend on Oil exporting countries. `:;;;

    Yours trully

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