Can Solar Power Work for Data Centers?

Can solar power play a meaningful role in addressing the power challenges facing the data center industry?

With the growing focus on green data centers, can solar power provide a workable solution to address the power challenges facing the industry? Allan Leinwald raises the question over at GigaOm. Leinwald, the former CTO of Digital Island and currently a venture partner at Panorama Capital, notes the escalating power requirements for premium data centers and says he's spoken with "entrepreneurs working to solve the problem with solar energy." Solar systems don't possess the capacity to support the 30 megawatt data centers being rolled out by search giants, as Leinwald acknowledges, noting that a 100,000 square foot rooftop solar system would only provide 1 megawatt. But could that 1 megawatt of solar-generated energy be one ingredient in a broader approach:

Combine solar energy with some of the latest battery storage technology and you should be able to build a 10 megawatt power system – you use the 1 megawatt solar system in combination with off-peak lower-priced power to charge the 10 megawatts of battery storage. There are lots of logistical issues here, such as the actual usable area on a roof and so on, but this seems realistic in theory. I’ve been told that such a system could cost up to $10 million to build and deploy (before the government rebates and tax credits).

Allan's post raises two questions: is this approach workable, and does it make economic sense?

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