Can Solar Power Work for Data Centers?

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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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.


  1. ekorn

    I don't know whether there will ever be enough green power to power a datacenter, particularly in light of the ever increasing power demands. There are, however, power saving things that are happening that are far more interesting. I heard a podcast today that talked about some really cool datacenter assessment tools that are available. Check it out at\podcast.

  2. I agree it can, Our company AISO.Net is 100% solar powered, both our servers and data center are powered by onsite solar panels. And we also have a partnership with Co-Op America, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Green Building Council. Plus, we are doing more then just making sure their electricity is green. Our data center and office is green too by using environmentally friendly air conditioners, solar tubes to bring in natural light, a propane powered generator instead of diesel, VMWare virtualization to reduce our server electricity usage, 6 watt energy saving desktops computers for our employees, and soon to be LEED certified as a green data center, the only public one in North America.