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For immediate release: March 1, 2002
Contact: Percy Della - 916-654-4989

Research Funds Okayed for Energy Efficient Web Server Farms

Sacramento -- The Energy Commission has voted to fund a research project to trim the electricity used by Internet server farms or "server hotels" in the State by at least 30 percent.

The Commission will contribute $500,000 to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and its efforts to make World Wide Web data facilities attain energy efficiency. The Commission's move is in line with California's goal of lowering overall electricity use in times of high demand.

"Server hotels" have mushroomed across California, with nary an improvement in the power efficiency of their technology. The research efforts are meant to establish their actual electricity demand and to soften the energy intensity levels within these computer centers.

As the facilities are planned and built, their electrical loads are overstated, and coupled with outmoded building cooling, leads to inefficient operation. Because their energy consumption has increased, there has been a tendency to exaggerate the impact of these facilities on California's electric grid and that of selected regions.

LBNL estimates that three percent of U.S. electricity is consumed by all digital equipment (computers, servers, routers, etc). Of this total, roughly 0.12 percent (about 500 megawatts) is used to power Internet server farms throughout the country.

In the San Francisco Bay area and the Silicon Valley, where 17 percent of the total server farms nationwide are located, it is estimated that about 80 megawatts are needed to keep these data centers running at all times. "Any megawatt savings would be really helpful to California in the next few summers, " says Commissioner Arthur Rosenfeld, chair of the Energy Commission's RD&D Committee. "A 30 percent saving in energy consumed by California server farms is 24 megawatts off the grid in times of energy distress. It also means savings in first cost for cooling equipment and the cost of electric hookups," he added.

Commissioner Rosenfeld also said, "24 megawatts of electricity running continuously will supply 24,000 average California homes."

Initially, the project will identify existing building electricity use for a selected sampling of data center facilities. Data center traits are then to be developed that focus the study on the computer facilities using the most power. Actual computer and building system loads will be used for future planning by the utilities and the building operators themselves.

Eventually, the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab will lead the formation of a "road map" for the computer industry. The road map calls for integrated research and a dramatically improved energy efficiency of building systems and computers used in data centers.

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