Media Contact: Allan Chen (510) 486-4210, [email protected]

Technical Contacts: William Tschudi (510) 495-2417, [email protected]

Geoffrey Bell (510) 486-4626, [email protected]

Berkeley Lab researchers, in partnership with Silicon Valley firms and the California Energy Commission, have three new energy-efficient data center technologies available for demonstration.

Berkeley, CA-Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are working with Silicon Valley companies to demonstrate energy-efficient data center technologies.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) in partnership with the California Energy Commission has encouraged SVLG member companies to demonstrate new or underused energy efficiency strategies for data centers. Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Netapp, Oracle, and many others, have answered the call, demonstrating a variety of new technologies in the facilities of Silicon Valley companies.

The Berkeley Lab team helped organize and participated in several of these projects, and with their partners will discuss these demonstrations at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Data Center Energy Summit on October 15 in Sunnyvale, California.

Berkeley Lab’s participation in the research is funded by the California Energy Commission. Berkeley Lab researchers involved in the work include Dale Sartor, Geoffrey Bell, and William Tschudi of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

Data centers are one of the fastest growing energy users according to an EPA study, which was led by Berkeley Lab scientists. Data centers are rooms or facilities containing the information technology equipment that send and receive information over the Internet or provide information technology services within organizations. The increased use of the World Wide Web, private corporate data networks, and high performance computing has led to an extremely rapid growth in the energy use of data centers at a time when the world is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency.

“These demonstrations are taking place in corporate facilities in Silicon Valley, with major partners, both on the equipment supply, and user side. SVLG is trying out different technological approaches, determining which ones work, and which don’t and publishing the results so that data center managers can evaluate the case studies, and decide what works for their facilities,” says William Tschudi, a Project Manager in EETD’s Applications Team.

Three such projects are described here.

Using sensors within IT equipment to control data center room temperature

In one demonstration at an Intel Corporation data center in Santa Clara, California, the engineering team is using temperature sensors which currently are deployed in servers to control the ambient temperature in the data center. Their goal was to show how to access these sensors and use them to directly control computer room air conditioning.

“The temperature sensor data is available on the IT network,” says Geoffrey Bell. “The challenge for this project was to connect the data to the computer room air handler’s control system.

“The team developed a control strategy in which the chilled water flow and the fans in the computer room air handlers are controlled separately. Using the existing sensors in the IT equipment eliminates an additional control system, and providing optimal cooling saves a significant amount of energy,” he explains.

The project was successful in demonstrating that the temperature sensors within IT equipment can be used to regulate temperature more energy efficiently in a data center equipment room. Manufacturers of IT equipment agree that the temperature at the inlet of the server, at the server’s front panel, is the figure that should control the operation of air conditioning equipment. In most data centers today, the temperature is measured at the return to the computer room air handler or air conditioner.

Intel collaborated with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Emerson, Wunderlich-Malec Engineers, FieldServer Technologies, and Berkeley Lab to install the necessary components and develop the new control scheme.

The next step by the team will be to develop an optimized control system using the internal sensor data as input. This could help realize an energy savings of 30 to 40 percent of a data center’s cooling energy.

Advanced control systems at the California Franchise Tax Board data center

Berkeley Lab researchers worked with a Data Automation Software and Hardware (DASH) control system and wireless sensing network from Federspiel Controls to demonstrate how dynamic data center cooling can save energy. The California Franchise Tax Board’s data center, where the work took place, is in Sacramento.

The control system uses wireless sensors and web-based software to control computer room air handling (CRAH) units. The DASH software could dynamically turn off 6 to 8 of the 12 cooling units while ensuring that inlet air temperatures were within the recommended temperature range.

Other technologies that helped reduce energy use included rearranging floor tiles, installing variable frequency fan drives, and installing blanking panels to contain hot air in the aisles between equipment racks-these are all in a guide to data center energy efficiency best practices developed by Berkeley Lab researchers.

The team made changes incrementally to compare the effect of each measure on energy performance. Overall, the project saves more than 475,000 kWh per year, which is 21.3% of the baseline total energy consumption of the data center. The DASH system saved 15.2% with a payback time of 0.97 years, after rebates.  These energy reductions eliminate more than 400 tons CO2/year greenhouse gas emissions.  The total project, including best practices saves nearly $43,000 per year and cost $134,000 for a payback of 2.25 years, after rebates.

The Sun Chill-Off Two (CO2)

Berkeley Lab’s researchers are also working on a project with Sun Microsystems and many HVAC equipment vendors on an evaluation of commercially available modular cooling systems used in data centers.  “Our work is to provide independent verification of the testing which involves the development of measurement plans and verification of results,” says Tschudi.  “We plan to provide reports on the systems evaluated.”

This project will continue beyond the October 15, 2009 Summit into next year.  At the Summit, Dean Nelson, of Ebay and formerly Director of Shared Lab Services at Sun, and Geoffrey Bell of Berkeley Lab will explain the testing process and the work plan.  Sun is hosting the evaluations in their Santa Clara data center and the various manufacturers are providing their equipment for evaluation.

Berkeley Lab’s collaboration with SVLG and participation in the demonstration projects is being funded by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program. In addition to presentations by EETD’s Geoffrey Bell, Berkeley Lab CIO Rosio Alvarez will participate in a roundtable discussion.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California for the DOE Office of Science. Visit our website at

Additional Information

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Energy Efficient Data Center Summit

More information on Berkeley Lab’s data center research: