INTEL PLANS to head on down to New Mexico and soak up some sun, quite literally, as the firm sets up solar panels at a facility in Rio Rancho to test the potential for using photovoltaic (PV) solar energy to power data centres.
Chipzilla has set up an array of 64 shiny Sharp solar panels, capable of generating 10 kilowatts of electricity. This, sadly, happens to be but a tiny fraction of the power needed for most data centres, but it's a decent start and, as Intel's director for global utilities and infrastructure, Marty Sedler notes, the project could "potentially lead the way for a more aggressive solar program within Intel" .
For now, the solar array will purportedly be used with data centre containers which guzzle far less power than ye old traditional data centres, but Intel spinners add that the panels could also provide an extra power boost during summer months when electricity usage is at a peak, straining local utilities.
But aside from the fact that enormous amounts of solar energy would be required to power up a whole data centre full of Intel's servers and cooling equipment, requiring a massive installation of PV solar panels, solar power isn't exactly cheap either, which may be a dissuasive factor.
For example, it takes approximately 9300 square metres of solar panels to generate just one megawatt of power, with each kilowatt costing between 25 to 30 cents, compared to regular utility rates of between 5 and 13 cents. Hardly an attractive deal.
In fact, only one data centre in the world currently runs completely on PV solar power, and that's AISO (Affordable Internet Services Online). The firm has a 140 square metre setup in Romoland, California with a 40 square metre server room. The data centre itself is actually powered by 120V DC power generating solar panels, with the current passing through an inverter before being stored in batteries.
At some point last year Mighty-Soft said it might use solar panels to power its new data centre in San Antonio, but later backtracked, saying it might eventually install rooftop solar panels if it ever became a practical, cost effective option.
Intel's Rio Rancho initiative, however, seems to have a better chance of survival, acting as a continuation of Chipzilla's research last year on ‘air side economisation', whereby outside air was used to cool a high-density data centre at the New Mexico site. µ
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