Data Center Interest in Renewable Energy on the Rise

Renewable energy is among the top emerging technologies being considered by data center owners to help address power and cooling costs, according to a Mortenson survey of corporate data center executives, data center developers and operators, and information technology providers at the 2014 Data Center World conference.

Eighty-four percent of respondents feel there is a need to consider renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar, to manage future needs, according to the survey.

Energy is by far the biggest cost for data centers, making power and cooling considerations the most important drivers in determining location, design and construction of facilities. In fact, the top thing data center operators say they would most like to change about their facilities is greater energy efficiency. Nearly half of survey participants also believe a better Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating is achievable through improved technologies.

“Worldwide data usage continues to grow, which requires more infrastructure and power to support it, so it’s vital that we leverage innovation to help balance energy demand and supply,” said Scott Ganske, director of operations for Mortenson’s Mission Critical Group. “There are a number of promising technologies that will drive energy efficiency forward in the next few years; and renewable energy increasingly makes economic as well as environmental sense for the energy supply chain. With costs dropping and operating efficiency rising, we believe renewables are rightly attracting interest from data center operators.”

Costs for producing wind have decreased 58% and solar power by 40% in the past five years and they continue to fall, making renewables more cost-competitive with traditional fuel sources in many markets. At the same time, availability is steadily improving. Wind farms, for example, generate power 50% of the time now, up from 35% in 2007. In fact, several leading technology firms in the U.S. are already investing in power purchase agreements (PPA) with wind energy producers to lock-in energy costs over the long term.  Mortenson has built several of the wind farms, located in Illinois, Iowa and Texas, that are a part of those PPA deals.

The Mortenson survey also covers such issues as:

current and future use of Data Center Information Management (DCIM)
leasing vs. owning facilities
growth expectations
LEED trends

Mortenson is one of the leading data center contractors in the U.S., ranked fifth by Engineering News-Record, and has built more than 16 million square feet of mission critical work for customers.  The company is also ranked as the top builder of wind power facilities in North America and is a leading solar power contractor.