information-energyThe DOE awards $47 million to improve energy efficiency in IT and telecom sectors. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that 14 projects across the country will share in this award. Information technology and telecommunications are vital and rapidly growing sectors of our overall economy and will become even more central as the smart grid is deployed.

by Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post

The Department of Energy is awarding $47 million to support the development of new technologies and knowhow aimed at improving energy efficiency in the information technology (IT) and communication technology sectors. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that 14 projects across the country will share in this award. Information technology and telecommunications are vital and rapidly growing sectors of our overall economy and will become even more central as the smart grid is deployed. As our country increasingly comes to rely on an information economy in sector after sector the underlying physical infrastructure that supports it, such as the data centers, networks, routers and so forth, is expected to continue to rapidly grow.

The rapid growth of this physical infrastructure that underlies the information economy has led to a very rapid increase in electricity use a growth in electricity demand that is projected to continue to rise. This is why it is important to develop ways and means of improving the IT and telecom sector’s energy efficiency. The energy efficiency projects announced today will reduce energy use and carbon pollution, while helping to develop a strong, competitive domestic industry.

“These Recovery Act projects will improve the efficiency of a strong and growing sector of the American economy. By reducing energy use and energy costs for the IT and telecommunications industries, this funding will help create jobs and ensure the sector remains competitive,” said Secretary Chu. “The expected growth of these industries means that new technologies adopted today will yield benefits for many years to come.”

Funding Will Focus on Equipment and Software, Power Supply Chain and Cooling

The $47 million in federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for these projects will be matched by more than $70 million in private industry funding, for a total project value of more than $115 million. Funding will be for research, development and demonstration projects in three subject areas. Projects may include aspects of more than one topic area.

Equipment and Software: These projects will focus on the core components of a data or telecommunications center, such as servers and networking devices as well as software to optimize equipment energy use.

Power Supply Chain: These projects will develop technologies to minimize the power loss and heat generation that occurs as electricity moves through the ever growing number of server-based IT and communications systems.

Cooling: This effort will seek to demonstrate ways to cool the equipment used in IT and telecommunications work more effectively and with less power than current methods.

Each of the project selected promises significant reductions in energy consumed by information technology and communications systems.

To read about related efforts to encourage energy efficiency in data center by establishing an Energy Star for Servers rating specification see our post: E.P.A. Releases Energy Star for Servers; A good First Step, but More Work Is Needed

Why Increasing IT Energy Efficiency Is So Important

As the reach of the Internet rapidly spreads; as ever increasing volumes of data are stored online in cloud based repositories and as more and more economic activities rely heavily on computing resources; the power consumption of this vast amorphous protean network is becoming an important component of overall energy usage.

While still quite small compared to such encompassing sectors as transportation or the energy used by our buildings and homes the energy consumed Information technology and telecommunications facilities account for approximately 120 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually—or 3% of all U.S. electricity use. Estimates based on the projected growth of data center power needs alone figure that two new large power plants per year (around 2GW) will be needed just to keep pace with the expected demand growth of new data centers. Without large gains in energy efficiency the information technology and communications sectors will place increasing stress on an already taxed electric grid increasing the risk of blackouts and brownouts. Moreover data center and communications network usage is highest during peak electric consumption hours so the added incremental load it adds to the already overloaded grid is a factor in kicking in highly inefficient peak load power generators. It should also be noted that because data centers need very high degrees of guaranteed uptime they are almost always equipped with diesel fueled generators that kick in whenever there are power issues on the grid.

Summary Listing of the Award Winners

Following below is a list of the 14 projects that received DOE awards with summaries for each project along with the amount of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds awarded to each project. Some of these projects span more than one of the three areas of focus for these rewards.

Reducing Data Center Cooling Energy through Software-Based Management Tools. ~ IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Project Location: Research Triangle Park, NC ~ The project will develop and field test data center and telecommunication facility management tools to reduce power consumption from cooling components. Using real-time temperature, humidity, hot-spot management, air-leakage measurement, and corrosion monitoring, this tool will optimize air conditioning systems and use of outside air in computing facilities. This technology has the potential to save 10% of average data center and telecommunication center energy requirements. Awarded: $1,666,550

Reducing Volume-Server Energy Use by Re-Architecting Server Components. ~ SeaMicro, Santa Clara, CA ~ This project will field test redesigned server systems consisting of hundreds of low-power processors. By efficient use of tiny interconnected Central Processing Units (CPUs) within a single server, demonstration of this patented technology is expected to save 75% of the computing energy over conventional servers. The integrated hardware and software design project ensures that the energy consumed within the server is efficiently used regardless of whether the CPUs are hard at work or in “sleep” mode. Awarded: $9,300,000

Lower Energy Requirements of Worldwide Network Services. ~ Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Labs, Project Location: Cornelius, NC ~ This project will develop and simulate methods to synchronize telecom network energy demand with real-time network traffic activity. Awarded: $300,000

Power Minimization for Networked Data Centers. ~ California Institute of Technology, Project Location: Ithaca, NY ~ Many large companies use massive arrays of servers across multiple data centers without a global method for managing energy consumption based on customer demand. This study will create algorithms designed to understand the demand for services from server technology and to balance services across servers and data centers according to preferred energy use goals. The so-called “volume servers” targeted in this project are the largest consumers of data center energy, so efficiency gains can yield substantial energy savings. Awarded: $300,000

Reducing Energy Loss from Power Conversion for Data and Telecommunication Centers. ~ Lineage Power Corporation, Project Location: Providence, RI ~ This project will develop and test a new, more efficient power rectifier – which is responsible for converting Alternating Current (AC) electricity supplied by electricity utilities to the Direct Current (DC) electricity required to run most of the equipment used in data and telecommunication centers. As a rule, energy efficiency is usually greatest in data centers when electricity demand is the highest. This rectifier will operate at high efficiency levels over the entire electricity use range whether demand is at peak or not. Separately, software will also be developed to keep conventional, existing rectifiers operating only during their highest efficiency intervals. To do this it will shut down certain rectifiers that are operating at lower levels so that the remaining rectifiers can operate at peak efficiency. Rectifiers are part of the “Power Supply Chain” and typically lose significant energy to heat loss and represents 25% of energy consumed in a data center. Awarded: $2,406,378

Increasing Computing Communications Energy Efficiency through Control of Network Device Energy Consumption. ~ BAE Systems, Project Location: Manassas, VA ~ This concept definition study will develop a model for Real-Time Optimal Control (RTOC) algorithms designed to shift network power consumption up or down based on the need for services within a data or telecommunications center. By utilizing industry-standard protocols, the control algorithms can control the flow of energy based on network traffic and energy management information that will be reported from network devices in network routers and switches and in computing devices such as mainframes and servers. Awarded: $222,031

Eliminating Wasted Energy by Automatically Powering Down Servers. ~ Power Assure, Inc., Project Location: Palo Alto, CA ~ This project will demonstrate software and supporting hardware which is integrated into various data center components to manage the power-state of servers. Currently, servers are always powered on even when not in use. The management software monitors server use and turns servers on and off as needed. This switch from “always on” to “always available” systems could save up to 50% of server energy use in data centers with large server farms. Awarded: $5,080,312

Modular Data Center with Integrated Alternating Current (AC), Cooling, and Distributed Energy Systems to Reduce Energy Requirements. ~ Hewlett-Packard Company (HP-01), Project Location: Houston, TX ~ This project will test creating an enclosed row of IT equipment supplied with efficient high voltage AC electrical supply, chilled water cooling components, and a distributed Direct Current (DC) electrical system which can interface with renewable energy sources. Geared towards small-to-medium businesses – the largest segment of the data center market – this technology provides the means to closely monitor and adapt power and cooling within a modular, enclosed area. New technology around power distribution and cooling reduces energy losses and heat generation from converting the electricity between currents. In addition, the ability to connect intermittent renewable energy sources to the data center allows for the broader integration of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. Awarded: $7,432,100

Reduction in Server Power Consumption through Improved CPU Energy Conversion. ~ Trustees of Columbia University, Project Locations: Ithaca, NY – Yorktown Heights, NY ~ This project will develop “on-chip” technology to make power conversions more efficient within servers. By increasing the amount of electricity that is used versus lost in operating the Central Processing Unit (CPU), server energy efficiency can be increased by at least 10%. Awarded: $2,800,000

Research Triangle Park, NC – Data Center Cooling using a Liquid Metal Thermal Interface. ~ IBM T.J. Watson Research Center (IBM-03), Project Locations: Poughkeepsie, NY ~ This project combines advanced metals and liquid cooled heat sinks to carry heat out of the data center to a Dual Enclosure Liquid Cooling (DELC) system. The DELC system will exchange heat from the data center with ambient air. Expelled heat will also be made available for room or water heating elsewhere. The project goal is to reduce cooling energy to 5% of total data center energy (conventional systems often use 25%). Awarded: $2,347,801

Active Management of Cooling Systems to Reduce Energy Consumption for the Data Center Market. ~ Federspiel Controls, Inc., Project Location: Los Angeles, CA ~ This project will demonstrate cooling control technology integrated with wireless network sensors. Typical data centers use equipment that cannot operate in high temperatures, while data center cooling and computing components use limited efficiency, single-speed fans and do not allow for dynamic shifting of cool air to where it is needed most. This project integrates variable speed fans, adjustable server fan inlets, and wireless temperature sensors to continuously adjust the volume and targets for cooled air according to temperature. This can significantly reduce the cooling infrastructure for data centers, which typically consumes 25% of the electrical energy in a data center. Awarded: $584,078

Next Generation Passive Cooling Design for Data Centers. ~ Yahoo!, Inc., Project Locations: Lockport, NY ~ This project will design and engineer a key data center for a major internet company. The integrated building design, including the building’s shape and orientation and the alignment of the servers within the building, allows the data center to use outside ambient air for cooling 99 percent of the year. The relatively low initial cost to build, compatibility with current server and network models, and efficient use of power and water are all key features that make this data center a highly compatible and replicable design innovation for the data center industry. Awarded: $9,921,887

Advanced Refrigerant-based Cooling Technologies for Information and Communications Infrastructure. ~ Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Labs (03), Project Location: Plano, TX ~ This project will further test and develop advanced heat-sink structures and device-level liquid cooling that dramatically enhance the ability to deal with ever-increasing server heat. The proposed technology is a modular cooling technology that supplies liquid refrigerant to micro-channel heat exchangers that remove heat directly by bringing refrigerant closer to actual heat sources. The work involves optimization of heat exchanger performance, component level cooling, development of a refrigerant handling network, and evaluation of system level performance. By improving the manufacturing process for key components of this system, the project will reduce the cost, measure performance, and increase the commercialization potential of the technology. This system will use 90% less energy compared with conventional systems. Awarded: $1,815,277

Energy Reduction from a Very Dense Liquid Cooled Compute Platform. ~ Edison Materials Technology Center, Project Locations: Menlo Park, CA – Mountain View, CA ~ This project will result in a prototype ultra high density compute platform with 100% liquid cooling using off-the-shelf commodity components and high volume manufacturing techniques. The system will be powerful enough for High-Performance Computing (HPC) applications and cost effective enough for general enterprise applications. The ability to package highly dense server systems with liquid cooling reduces the floor-space consumed by the server as well as the cooling density per computing operation. Awarded: $2,843,985

© 2010, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Chris de Morsella (146 Articles)

After a decade performing as a lead guitarist for rock bands, Chris de Morsella decided to return to the career his uncle mentored him in as a youth....Software Engineering. Since that time he has thrown himself into his work. He has designed a compound document publishing architecture for regulatory submissions capable of handling very large multi-document FDA regulatory drug approval submissions, for Liquent, a division of Thompson Publishing. At the Associated Press, Chris worked with senior editors at facilities around the world, to develop a solution for replacing existing editorial systems with an integrated international content management solution. He lead the design effort at Microsoft for a help system for mobile devices designed to provide contextual help for users. Chris also helped to develop the web assisted installer for LifeCam2.0, the software for Microsoft’s web cam and developed late breaking features for the product He also served with the Rhapsody client team to redesign and build a major new release of Real Networks Rhapsody client product. His most recent assignment has been Working with the Outlook Mobile Time Management team for the next release of Outlook Mobile for the SmartPhone. Chris' interests are in green building and architecture, smart grid, the cloud, geo-thermal energy, solar energy, smart growth, organic farming and permaculture. Follow Chris on Twitter.

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