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How to Protect Data Centers

Exploring power flow and heat transfer technologies

BY BRIAN FORTENBERY, Electric Power Research Institute

A data center is a large concentrated load about 20 times more energy-intensive than the typical commercial building and 80 to 100 times more energy-intensive than the typical home. They operate continuously 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Between 2000 and 2006, the number of servers being installed in the United States increased from 5.5 million per year to 10.9 million per year. Energy use in data centers was estimated to be 1.5 percent of the U.S. total electricity use in 2006 and was expected to double in five years. Power failures—as well as limitations on space, power, and cooling capacity—were expected to affect almost all data centers
in that time period.

Coupled with inefficient air conditioning and other components, a typical data center consumes about two to three times more power than its information technology (IT) loads. Over half of the power consumed by power systems and cooling systems is fixed. Power and cooling systems that can operate at or near capacity and can adjust capacity to meet loads will reduce the effects of fixed losses and transients and increase efficiency. This feature will focus on how to protect data centers.

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