Can Data Centers Realistically Use Solar Power?

March 15, 2016

Design will improve IT sustainability.

A data center that uses power from a solar array has been developed to prove that the large power consumers can operate more efficiently. Created as part of a collaboration between the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) and researchers from MIT and UMass, the prototype data center’s solar panels can power three racks or 40 servers. The system also includes cooling systems, micro-flywheels, and batteries to provide power storage.

Because experimental scenarios can be difficult to test on existing data centers for fear of the loss of data, the researchers placed the prototype next to the functional MGHPCC data center. The scientists expect that the reliability of the renewable-powered system can be improved by comparing scenarios with what is happening at the larger data center. The first strategies the researchers plan to test include finding the right type of batteries to store power from intermittent solar and whether cooling can be best accomplished with outside air or air conditioning.

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