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HP Power Hardware

Is a "Net Zero" Data Center Possible? 160

miller60 writes "HP Labs is developing a concept for a 'net zero' data center — a facility that combines on-site solar power, fresh air cooling and advanced workload scheduling to operate with no net energy from the utility grid. HP is testing its ideas in a small data center in Palo Alto with a 134kW solar array and four ProLiant servers. The proof-of-concept confronts challenges often seen in solar implementations, including the array's modest capacity and a limited window of generation hours – namely, when the sun shines. HP's approach focuses on boosting server utilization, juggling critical and non-critical loads, and making the most of every hour of solar generation. Can this concept work at scale?"
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Is a "Net Zero" Data Center Possible?

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  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:38AM (#40163625)

    HP is testing its ideas in a small data center in Palo Alto with a 134kW solar array and four ProLiant servers.

    Four servers is a nerd's basement.

    Wouldn't you need something like 4 racks full of servers? Running something like seti@home or

    In its own building.

  • Re:No! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nzac ( 1822298 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:44AM (#40163647)

    As a net 0, No.

    You can both consume power from the grid and produce it. The extra they make during the day that someone else uses is what they use at night.

    Its a PR stunt though, if a bunch of companies got together and funded a massive solar farm it would have the same result and probably be more efficient.

  • Silly headline (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:47AM (#40163669)

    If you're already assuming that a data center can include its own power generation systems (solar, wind, hamsters, etc.), then of course it's possible.

    Just include a local coal or nuclear plant on the datacenter's property. Or, if the "renewable" detail is critical, create one in the middle of the Mojave dessert, with 30 sq. miles of solar panels, which during the sunny times also charge up a 400-ton array of lithion-ion batteries or a flywheel generator.

    So I wonder if "possible" is really what you're asking.

  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:02AM (#40163735)

    No, they didn't.

    Roughly speaking, there are three levels of "greenness", for lack of a better word. "Off the grid" means you're totally self-sufficient; probably solar during the day stored to batteries for night, combined with ultra-efficient stuff. "Net zero" means you self-generate a surplus of power sometimes and a deficit others, selling your excess to the power company and buying your need. Being "fully renewable", like what Apple announced, "just" means you're buying all renewable energy. If you read the article you linked to, you'd see that Apple will only be generating 60% of its need, which means it's far from net zero.

    I'm not actually sure how much the last means in practice, considering that it's not like they have dividers that say "this electron came from solar so it goes to Apple, while this electron came from coal so it can't." So really what it turns into is Apple giving the power company more money so that hopefully they'll build more renewable sources. Not to say that I don't applaud the decision, and even 60% generation is impressive, but it is indirect.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:13AM (#40163797)

    the main thing they're testing is the scheduling of workloads to to get the maximum benefit from their solar array. It doesn't matter how many servers they have. They'll still get useful data from this test.

  • by lakeland ( 218447 ) <> on Thursday May 31, 2012 @02:19AM (#40163989) Homepage

    You can pass the excess power on to the grid according to the definitions they're using. As long is you've given more power to the grid than you've taken out, you're a winner.

  • Solar panel costs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @02:59AM (#40164089)

    Does this experience account for the solar panel manufacturing costs and their environmental footprint as well? Even the most optimistic [] studies admit it is not zero.

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan