This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 23, 2002

Report Claims Utilities are Struggling to Power Data Centers

A report issued last week suggests that electric utilities are having a difficult time providing power to electronic data centers, including so-called "Internet hotels" that provide servers for Web sites. The Platts report finds that such data centers can consume from 8 to 50 times the electricity per square foot used by standard commercial buildings. For instance, a 344,000-square-foot data center under construction in Washington State is expected to draw up to 105 megawatts of power when it is complete. Such high power loads are causing some data centers to develop their own power sources. See The McGraw-Hill Companies news release.

The Platts report might be somewhat suspect, however, in light of a report issued last summer by DOE's Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL). That report found that, for a variety of reasons, data centers often greatly exaggerate their power needs. It concluded that data centers use at most 50 watts per square foot, and usually closer to 40 watts per square foot. This number applies only to the computer room part of the facility, and not surrounding office areas. Using these figures, the data center in Washington would need at most 17.2 megawatts of power - probably much less. See the August 29th edition of EREN Network News.

A report released last month by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) suggests that energy use in data centers could be even lower. Using efficient servers, properly sized and efficient cooling systems, and other energy efficiency approaches, data centers could reduce their electricity demand by 20 to 50 percent, according to the report. See the REPP announcement, with a link to the full report.