Huge Solar Array Will Support NJ Data Center

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The McGraw-Hill Companies will build a 50-acre solar array to support its data center in East Windsor, New Jersey, the company said today. The $60 million project will add 14.1 megawatts of solar generation, making it one of the largest initiatives yet to use photovoltaic solar power to offset the energy used by a data center.

The array will be built on McGraw-Hill’s campus in East Windsor, which houses an 180,000 square foot data center and about 700,000 square feet of office space. The data center, which opened in 2008, is the central hub of the publisher’s global computing operations, and has been consuming a growing amount of power to deliver McGraw-Hill’s digital products, including the company’s Standard & Poor’s investment ratings, energy pricing services from Platt’s, and the Connect learning platform for higher education.

10 Percent Carbon Reduction

McGraw-Hill said the renewable energy produced by the project is expected to reduce  its annual global carbon emissions by 10 percent and “significantly lower the company’s long-term electricity costs.”

“Our plan to use solar power underscores our commitment to green, sustainable business practices,” said Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies. “We are excited by the environmental benefits of using solar energy while helping us control costs, and we’re thrilled to once again have a fantastic partner in the East Windsor community, which has served as a focal point of our operations for nearly five decades.” East Windsor is located in Mercer County, not far from Princeton.

Solar and Data Centers

Solar power hasn’t been widely used in data centers because it takes a very large installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to produce even a fraction of the energy required by most data centers. McGraw-Hill is the latest in a series of data center projects to include photovoltaic solar panels. But most have been modest installations generating between 100 and 200 kilowatts of power. With its 14-megawatt capacity, the McGraw-Hill installation will dwarf most previous projects.

The solar array is expected to be completed in two phases, with 50 percent of the capacity coming online in December 2011, and the remaining 50 percent in March 2012.  It will be built and operated by NJR Clean Energy Ventures (NJRCEV), a subsidiary of New Jersey Resources.  NJRCEV will invest $60 million to develop and install the , ground mount solar array on a 50-acre parcel on McGraw-Hill’s property. The system will be installed by Advanced Solar Products of Flemington, NJ with assistance from MVM Advisors LLC of New York.

The companies says the project will be “the largest privately-owned, net-metered solar project in the Western Hemisphere.” Net metering allow consumers to generate electricity at their premises, interconnect with the local power grid, and use their on-site generation to offset electricity purchased from the local utility. NJR expects that investments made by NJRCEV will qualify for a 30 percent federal investment tax credit. In addition, the energy produced will be eligible for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), which can be sold to Load Serving Entities in New Jersey to meet their renewable energy requirements.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief 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.

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