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Data Centers Power Up Savings With Renewable Energy

sonomasolararraysNew data center projects are taking a closer look at renewable energy sources including solar and wind as a way to improve corporate sustainability, cut energy use and reduce operational costs.

As an example, developers of the Sonoma Mountain Village will dedicate more than 1 megawatt of solar power to a data center project at its Rohnert Park, Calif. campus, a mixed-use community combining offices, retail and housing, reports Data Center Knowledge. The solar array generates 1.14 megawatts of power, and is expected to power the facility for at least 270 days a year.

Sonoma Mountain told Data Center Knowledge the solar installation, which is located next to the data center, will be able to support up to 250 racks in Data Center Suite 1. The first phase will be powered by an existing 83,000-square-foot solar array, which has been online since 2006 and currently powers office buildings that house AT&T and Comcast, according to Data Center Knowledge. The building can switch between energy from the solar array and grid power from an on-site PG&E substation with 9 megawatts of capacity.

Developer Codding Enterprises said in the article that the Sonoma project will be a “less than zero carbon” facility, and projects that it will gain Platinum certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for energy efficient buildings.

Codding Enterprises also noted that Sonoma Mountain Village is currently the only qualifying site in North America, and one of only five in the world, to meet the United Nations’ criteria for “One Planet Community” sustainable development.

Sonoma Mountain isn’t the only project to green its data center with solar power. There are at a handful of companies that have either incorporated solar into their plans or plan to in the future. In July, Emerson announced a new $50 million data center that incorporates a 7,800-square-foot rooftop solar array with more than 550 solar panels that can generate 100 kilowatts (kW) of energy. It’s said to be the largest in Missouri.

In May, BT installed a 2,862-module, 601 kW-DC solar power system at the company’s North American headquarters in El Segundo, CA. The installation will produce 15 percent to 20 percent of BT’s current energy needs for the offices and data center.

At the beginning of the year, Intel announced plans to test the potential for using photovoltaic solar energy to power its data centers.

Data Center Knowledge also cites i/o Data Centers, which is building a 4-MW solar array on top of its Phoenix ONE data center in Phoenix, and UK-based backup provider WorldBackups.net’s plans for a 2,600-square-foot data center that will rely primarily on solar power. The web site notes that AISO in Romoland, Calif. was the first provider to run a full-solar data center.

Businesses are also using wind to power their data centers. Data Center Knowledge reports that Texas startup Baryonyx Corp. is planning to build a wind-powered data center. The company has won three wind energy leases for 8,000 acres onshore in Dallam County, Texas and another 38,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the article. Baryonyx has also purchased 8 acres of land in Stratford, Texas, for its data center project.

Expected to take about three years to reach the operational phase, Baryonyx plans to build a 28,000-square-foot data center in Stratford, which will be powered by 100 wind turbines built on adjacent land that will generate up to 150 MW of power, with each turbine capable of generating up to 3.3 MW of power, according to the Data Center Knowledge. Capacity not needed by the data center will be sold to local utilities.

The second phase targets offshore wind farms, which will feature up to 450 wind turbines, that are capable of generating 6 MW of power, reports Data Center Knowledge.

Other wind projects cited by Data Center Knowledge include Green House Data’s 10,000-square-foot facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming that runs primarily on wind energy, while Microsoft has demonstrated wind-powered containers packed with servers.

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