Think the U.S. Department of Energy might stop throwing cash at the renewable energy sector sometime soon? Not even close. The DOE’s promised $30 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects is still pouring forth. The latest recipient is the data center sector, which will get $47 million for over a dozen efficiency-improving projects.
It might not be the sexiest grant (that award goes to the ARPA-E project), but industry servers are responsible for a whopping 1.5% of all U.S. energy use. As cloud computing becomes more popular, that number will grow exponentially. To that end, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has selected 14 projects to focus on, including Alcatel-Lucent’s data center cooling project, HP’s power supply chain projects, and IBM’s equipment and software project. Even a few startups made the list–stealth company SeaMicro took $9.3 million and 3 year-old PowerAssure received $5 million.
According to Chu, cutting down on data center energy usage could potentially save 400 trillion BTU’s of energy each year, or enough to power 2 million homes. $47 million probably won’t be a big enough boost to overhaul the entire sector, but it’s a start. And in this case, data center operators have a powerful economic motivator to keep the research going: cost. It’s expensive for data centers to use so much electricity, which is why we’ve seen a slew of efficiency projects in the past year. Even without ample government funding, the data center industry is going to have to become a whole lot more efficient if it wants to survive.