Apple takes steps to improve data center energy efficiency
Monday, Nov 25th 2013

While data centers provide support for a wide variety of critical technological applications and systems, these facilities are also notorious for their electricity consumption.

Data centers require vast amounts of energy to power not only their servers and other hardware, but also the systems utilized to keep these heat-producing devices cool. However, in recent years, data center designers and operators have taken steps to improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of these facilities to significantly mitigate their impact on the surrounding environment.

Because much of the energy consumed by data centers comes as a result of cooling systems, many organizations utilize server room temperature monitoring systems as a means to keep critical devices cool while keeping a watchful eye on their energy consumption. Utilization of temperature monitoring within a data center can allow facility operators to prevent servers from overheating as well as reduce the amount of electricity used in the process.

Additionally, owners and operators of data centers also use  renewable energy sources as a means to improve the environmental footprint of their facilities. Apple recently changed the game of renewable energy with their Maiden, N.C., data center.

Providing its own green power source
According to a report by GigaOM contributor Katie Fehrenbacher, Apple was one of the driving forces behind bringing renewable energy resources to North Carolina. During construction planning of its new data center site, the company looked into potential local sources of renewable energy, and when it found that there weren't sufficient resources available, Apple decided its create its own.

Fehrenbacher stated that the local utility provider, Duke Energy, believed that customers would not want to pay the premium that came along with greener energy sources. For this reason, the company made little effort to provide the area with renewable power sources. However, after Apple's unprecedented move, the company was more willing to provide more environmentally friendly options.

In order to power its newest facility, Apple spent a significant amount to build two solar panel farms and a fuel cell farm. Apple's website stated that the company's 100-acre onsite solar photovoltaic array is the largest in the nation that was created and is owned by the end user. The 20 megawatt facility can produce 42 million kilowatt hours of clean energy, and its second solar farm will go online in late 2013.

The company's fuel cell energy source is a 10 megawatt facility that provides an additional 83 million kilowatt hours of renewable power. In total, the company's clean resources provide 167 million kilowatt hours of electricity, equivalent to the amount needed to power 17,600 homes for one year, stated Apple.

In addition to utilizing clean electricity to power its technology, Apple has also made other efforts to create a greener data center. The facility uses a chilled water storage system and draws upon outside air in addition to cooling system management.

Apple's efforts represent an important step in the push for more energy efficient data centers. While many organizations may not have the resources to create their own renewable energy sources, they can make small efforts, such as temperature monitoring, to improve the power consumption of their facilities.