The Future is Bright: Rich Opportunities for Data Centers

Sarah Rambacher is Associate Project Manager, Energy Efficiency Services, for New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).


Ask any data center operator what his or her top priority is and you’ll likely hear the same answer: “uptime.” In other words, their primary focus is to keep IT infrastructure up and running for end users at all times – often resulting in an inefficient use of financial resources.

However, I believe that by expanding their focus on uptime to include energy efficiency, data center operators can actually maximize uptime and save money at the same time.

Data centers are more energy intensive per square foot than any other commercial space. For every watt of electricity used in data centers to power servers and storage devices, more energy is consumed by cooling equipment to prevent overheating and maintain uptime. As mission-critical facilities with 24x7x365 operating schedules, data centers need efficient equipment that will not be a financial liability or compromise uptime.

Let’s look at New York State, home to the second highest concentration of data centers in the country. New York data centers consume 4.5 billion kilowatt hours of power per year at an annual cost of nearly $600 million. The conditions in NY state represents a significant opportunity to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions—and, ultimately, unlock savings.

There are numerous opportunities for data centers to optimize mission-critical assets to save energy while maximizing uptime. IT infrastructure upgrades, facility improvements and adjustments to operations and maintenance can all improve efficiency, reduce operating costs and increase reliability. Although installing efficient equipment may be the path most data center owners and operators would prefer to take, the premium for energy-efficient equipment can be cost prohibitive. In the face of these barriers, it makes sense for data center owners and operators to not only consider how to improve energy efficiency, but to seek partners to help.

Where to Start

In New York State, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Industrial and Process Efficiency Program helps data center owners and operators identify opportunities for improvements to their data centers’ energy efficiency and offset costs through financial incentives. Through NYSERDA’s program, customers can take advantage of cost-sharing for energy-related technical assistance studies, funding for energy and process improvements, and installation support to address energy-related issues critical to operation.

For instance, when Time-Warner Cable embarked upon building out a new data center space, it worked closely with NYSERDA and its data center outreach consultant, Willdan Energy Solutions, in the early stages of design. Through a mix of energy-efficient power, cooling and lighting strategies, NYSERDA estimates that Time Warner Cable will save 970,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year over a comparable baseline case.

According to Sal Azzaro, Senior Facilities Director at Time-Warner Cable, “It’s been a real team effort. We sat around the table with NYSERDA, Willdan and our business partners and asked, “What if we do this? How about this?” Working with NYSERDA isn’t just about capturing the money for incentives – it’s not a driving factor compared to what we spend – but what they help us recoup in efficiency and redundancy is really primary to the process.”

In the field of data center energy efficiency, one size does not fit all, especially at the rapid pace at which today’s technology grows and evolves. That’s why it’s critical to have an experienced partner to help navigate through the options and maximize investments in energy-efficiency measures. A good partner will focus on overall project ROI and help customers identify and implement IT and infrastructure improvement projects that reduce operating costs, increase efficiency and ultimately help grow their business.

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One Comment

  1. Ed Szott

    Dear Sarah, I attended the Data Center show at the Marriott Marquis last year and I met Anastasia Wright from Wildan who was at he NYSERDA booth. We discussed the Xand project in Hawthorne, NY (I was intimately involved inth eproject). Ultimately, Xand purchased Trane RTAC air cooled chillers with our free cooling modification due in large part to a NYSERDA incentive. As I was participating in a conference call regarding Trane’s planning for this year’s show I thought about the Xand project and wondered if we could create some synergy between Willdan/NYSERDA and Trane at this year's (i.e. projects where incentive were paid for using high efficiency Trane products). I reached out to Anastasia and found out that she is no longer at Wildan. So I am making the request of you that I was going to make to Anastasia - Would you be willing to participate in a conference call with the Trane associates involved in planning for this year’s show? By all means you could include anyone from Willdan or NYSERDA that you feel some be part of this process. If you think exploring this would be a worthy endeavor just let me know and I will try and put a call together with Trane’s data center marketing team.