Montclair State University has been awarded a $218,000 energy technology demonstration grant to rapidly advance the development of energy management software designed to enable IT data centers to realize significant energy efficiency improvements. Led by a transdisciplinary team of scientists in the University’s College of Science and Mathematics and the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, the core of the software toolkit will be a Decision Support System (DSS) that enables business and organizational decision-making intended to reduce energy usage and associated operational costs of IT data centers in higher education and small to medium-sized businesses.

“Recent studies have noted that in the U.S. alone, electric consumption at data centers is almost two percent of world production, and today’s average data center consumes as much energy as 25,000 households,” stated Michael P. Weinstein, director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State. “If this trend continues, data center output is expected to quadruple by the year 2020,” he added.

The Montclair State DSS will be an interactive software-based system that will capture an array of energy-related information from the University’s IT data center. The DSS will then use an artificial intelligence framework to provide expected performance versus cost outcomes for various short- and long-term energy management decisions including application scheduling, hardware maintenance, server utilization, room temperatures, data center equipment selection, and future usage of virtual data centers.

“We expect the system will allow our institution not only to achieve cost savings in energy usage for the data center but also to predict how future decisions will result in savings,” said Stefan Robila, associate professor of computer science, and principle investigator for the DSS project. “We also expect to become a model for higher education institutions in New Jersey and in the neighboring states, with the potential of becoming a pioneering system for colleges and universities throughout United States,” added Michael Oudshoorn, chair of the computer science department in the College of Science and Mathematics.

The grant was awarded by PSE&G, in partnership with the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute, to support innovative energy efficiency technologies that hold the potential to come to market quickly. Nearly $8 million in grant funding is being made available for New Jersey’s leading energy technology organizations, including universities and the small businesses community. The Energy Technology Demonstration Grant Program is part of a $190 million initiative that was approved by the NJ Board of Public Utilities in 2010 to support the state’s economic development goals and bring new energy efficiency tools to utility customers.

The Montclair State DSS project team includes principle investigators Stefan Robila and Michael P. Weinstein; Aparna Varde, an expert in data mining, database management and artificial intelligence; and Michael Pawlish, a doctoral student in the University’s PhD program in Environmental Management.