The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has partnered with Clarkson University, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), HP, and other private businesses to demonstrate how a network of wind- and solar-powered data centers could create a new model for data center and renewable energy operations.

The program makes use of a distributed network of data centers to make this high-energy-demand technology more energy-efficient and cost-effective than current methods. If successful and deployed on a larger scale, this project could bring significant energy savings to an industry that can consume one megawatt of electricity at times of peak operation. That's enough to power about a thousand average homes.

Clarkson engineers and students will be experimenting with the concept of managing data through a network of servers powered by clean energy, such as wind turbines or photovoltaic (solar electric) systems. Backers envision the creation of a clean-energy-driven Performance Optimized Data Center (POD) system that could be available on a large scale to serve any potential customer-colleges, hospitals, corporations, or any entity that requires data processing.

The distributed-or cloud computing-network is key to this project. For example, sites could be installed at wind turbine sites in Albany and Buffalo. If the wind is blowing in Buffalo, processing would be routed there. If Albany is generating more power, the processing would be routed there. Sending data over fiber-optic networks is far more energy efficient than moving power over transmission lines, even if the data is in another part of the country. And the distance would be invisible to the computer user doing the data processing.

NYSERDA is investing $300,000 in the project, which will leverage an additional $374,000 in private funds.

Clarkson will be supported by business partners that will contribute equipment or expertise to the project. Principal partners include AMD and HP. Other companies taking part in the project include GE Global Research Center, Niskayuna; Ioxus, Oneonta; AWS TruePower, Albany; Vento Tek Inc., Potsdam; Timbre Inc. Potsdam; Intertek, Cortland; WindE Systems, Yulee, FL; and Ballard Power Systems Inc., Burnaby, B.C., Canada.

Given the rapid growth in demand for data processing, this innovative approach to data center design and operation could help offset the growing power loads required by the data center industry while providing a highly cost-effective way to use renewable energy sources. An average commercial-sized data center consumes around one megawatt of electricity during normal operations. In New York State, data centers account for 3 percent of all electricity consumed, and demand in this sector is expected to double over the next five years.

"One way for the New York economy to grow is for us to think about the way we use electricity more intelligently and efficiently to power business technology," said Francis J. Murray Jr., president and CEO of NYSERDA. "NYSERDA is pleased to be supporting this project. We believe it can serve as a model for technology-based businesses and can help grow high-tech jobs in New York State."

"Clarkson University is excited to lead this cutting-edge project on green data center computing," said Tony Collins, Clarkson president. "We are proud to bring together an interdisciplinary team of researchers and industry partners that will address challenges at the intersection of renewable energy, environmental and economic issues, related to the ever-increasing computational demands facing of our nation. Our goal is to create the knowledge, technology and economic impetus that will lead to superior designs and to better investments. "

"AMD has a long history leading the battle against power consumption in the data center," said Alan Lee, vice president for Research at AMD. "This significant project with HP, NYSERDA and Clarkson University is a natural next step and will help researchers develop cleaner, more efficient and more cost-effective data centers that run on solar and wind power, which will clearly be needed to sustain the expected growth of public and private networks. Deploying this project in New York State is a natural choice because of its leadership in renewable energy and energy efficiency research."

"Organizations are looking for ways to offset increasing power loads and energy costs," said Glenn Keels, marketing director of HP's Hyperscale Business Unit. "Together with NYSERDA, Clarkson's research and AMD, HP is developing power-saving strategies for the use of renewable resources and energy-efficient technology with monitoring capabilities, as featured in our HP POD portfolio, to create new models for clean-energy data center operations."