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Data Centers

A data center uses 10 to 100 times more energy than a typical office space of the same size. With the number of data centers rapidly increasing across the globe, this fact has a significant impact on the amount of energy used. Approximately one-half of a data center’s energy use is for the IT equipment itself, while the other half is for the building infrastructure – primarily to remove the heat produced by the IT equipment. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), data centers used 61 billion kilowatt-hours in 2006, or 1.5 percent of all power consumed in the U.S. The electricity cost was $4.5 billion, about what 5.8 million average households spent on electricity. Federal servers alone cost around $500 million annually to operate. If we take no action to reduce this usage, data center power usage will double by 2011. If all agencies implement what the EPA considers the state-of-the-art, we could lower overall data center power usage to 2001 levels by 2011 – a net swing of 90 billion kilowatt hours.

In 2008, Applied Research partnered with the Department of Energy and leveraged the expertise at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to address energy efficiency and indoor air quality (IAQ) at data centers. Phase I of the project led to the publication of the Quick Start Guide to Increase Data Center Energy Efficiency (pdf). The guide offers useful information to help property managers and energy coordinators make positive changes right away.

Current work on the project focuses on the following areas:

  • Design of new data centers to reduce energy consumption while maintaining acceptable IAQ
  • Assessment of existing data centers and recommendations for improvement
  • Development of a training workshop on energy efficiency in data centers for facilities managers, engineers, operators, project managers, and IT professionals

A recent Green Proving Ground study on wireless sensor technology found a 48% reduction in cooling load and a 17% reduction in power usage.


data center, energy efficiency, green data center