Demand Response Opportunities and Enabling Technologies for Data Centers: Findings From Field Studies

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The energy use in data centers is increasing and, in particular, impacting the data center energy cost and electric grid reliability during peak and high price periods. As per the 2007 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the Pacific Gas and Electric Company territory, data centers are estimated to consume 500 megawatts of annual peak electricity. The 2011 data confirm the increase in data center energy use, although it is slightly lower than the EPA forecast. Previous studies have suggested that data centers have significant potential to integrate with supply-side programs to reduce peak loads. In collaboration with California data centers, utilities, and technology vendors, this study conducted field tests to improve the understanding of the demand response opportunities in data centers. The study evaluated an initial set of control and load migration strategies and economic feasibility for four data centers. The findings show that with minimal or no impact to data center operations a demand savings of 25% at the data center level or 10% to 12% at the whole building level can be achieved with strategies for cooling and IT equipment, and load migration. These findings should accelerate the grid-responsiveness of data centers through technology development, integration with the demand response programs, and provide operational cost savings.

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