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How A Large Massachusetts-based Data Center Nabbed Part of $27 Billion in Energy Savings

(Credit: Markley)

The Markley Group owns and operates the largest data center and telecom facility in New England — one that has spawned other mission-critical facilities around the world. It has looked for ways to increase power density while decreasing its energy costs. To do so, it sought guidance from Mass Save, which is a group of utilities in Massachusetts that help commercial and industrial businesses to boost energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. 

In this case, the Markley Group learned how to work with installation contractors to analyze and evaluate its “modular row-based cooling.” The goal has been to ensure a solid cost-benefit ratio — benefits derived by saving energy and dollars. The partner utility covered 75% of the cost to add energy-efficient technologies. 

“The new data centers are now more cost-effective with less CO2 and NOx emissions, and the Markely Group benefits from the new cooling system and reduced operating costs which get passed on to their customers,” says Mass Save. 

Mass Save is comprised of Berkshire Gas, Cape Light Compact, Eversource, Liberty Utilities, National Grid, and Unitil. Their programs and services are managed and delivered by electric and gas companies that work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. They provide the energy expertise often missing in many commercial and industrial enterprises. The funding comes from surcharges on customers’ bills.

The Context 

For the last decade, the sponsors of Mass Save have worked with companies to ensure a more sustainable future. Altogether, the organization has helped reduce CO2 emissions by 3.7 million metric tons. Energy efficiency is the key — a strategy focused on home insulation, heat pumps, LED lighting replacement, and appliance upgrades. Mass Save says that the overall CO2 reduction achieved is the equivalent of taking 795,650 cars off the road.

“Over 10 years, the sponsors helped generate more than $27 billion in energy-saving, cost-lowering benefits,” says Mass Save. 

The sponsors of Mass Save will offer financial and technical assistance to commercial and industrial operations that incorporate energy efficiency into new buildings or do so by renovating existing facilities. Oftentimes, the sponsors will provide interest-free loans. 

In the case of the Markley Group, the sponsor committed $183,358 in energy-saving incentives for its project. That equates to 75% of the additional cost of using the new energy-efficient technology, says Mass Save. 

“The Mass Save program was very user-friendly and helped us through the whole process,” says Donald Esson, the Markley Group’s chief infrastructure manager. 

 Our local utility supported us financially and we couldn’t have completed this project without their help.”

The Results

The Markley Group placed cooling where it would be most optimal — “washing the face of servers,” says Mass Save. It also recirculated the heat before it would “mix” with the remaining space. Indeed, the newer and more efficient cooling equipment increased power density and saved money. 

The project’s cost: $405,305. Of that, the Markley Group put up nearly $222,000, and the sponsor put up the balance. The company says that it saved more than 1.8 million kilowatt/hours, producing $307,671 in savings. The payback took only eight months.

Mass Save works with manufacturing units, grocery stores, medical facilities, hardware stores, hotels, and entertainment complexes. 

For example, Airxchange makes energy ventilation equipment. Its patented energy recovery wheel technology reduces energy requirements for conditioning outdoor air by up to 80% and is available from most HVAC manufacturers. It completed a vast 62,000-square-foot facility in Rockland, Mass. using a system designed to provide 30% more outdoor air than required by the building code. That’s produced annual energy savings of $45,800 — a 1.8-year payback. Through the Mass Save program, it got $106,200 in incentives. 

Meantime, Gentex Optics makes eyeglasses. It wanted to improve its manufacturing performance and its cooling performance. Mass Save identified several energy efficiency measures that Gentex could take. These included a high-performance process cooling system upgrade that allows for removing glycol from the process cooling lines and replacing three air-cooled chillers. 

The whole project cost nearly $1.1 million. Mass Save provided $450,000 in incentives. The advice and the investment paid off: a 73% reduction in electrical usage that saved Gentex $142,000. The payback: 4.5 years. 

Mass Save’s success may lead to more states enacting similar programs. 

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