Engineers receive $1 million grant to reduce data center power costs

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A team of Penn State engineers has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to research reducing power consumption at data centers.

The team, led by Anand Sivasubramaniam, professor of computer science and engineering, includes Hosam Fathy, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, and Bhuvan Urgaonkar, associate professor of computer science and engineering.

The team's three-year project is titled, "CSR: Medium: Provisioning and Harnessing Energy Storage for Data Center Demand Response."

Data centers consume massive amounts of power and already account for 2 percent of the world's energy consumption and 1.5 percent of the global carbon footprint. A single data center at Microsoft, Google or Facebook can consume more than 20 megawatts of power, costing a company several million dollars to provision the power infrastructure and pay for the electricity.

As users become increasingly dependent on cloud services, the companies running the data centers behind the cloud are seeking ways to reduce their power consumption and energy costs.

"While there has been a lot of work to reduce power demand of data centers, the novelty of this project is in leveraging energy storage technologies -- including batteries -- to reshape the power demand and cut the peak power draw," Sivasubramaniam said.

He explained that reshaping and/or capping power would allow companies to reduce power demand during peak periods; cut the amount of infrastructure needed, since electricity demand would go down; and smooth the supply vagaries associated with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

"Energy storage is already being deployed in data centers today for providing temporary power during outages, and this project looks to extend their usage for controlling the power demand from the grid," Sivasubramaniam said.

For more information about sustainability initiatives at Penn State, visit www.sustainability.psu.edu.

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Last Updated July 25, 2013