A 3.6 million (£2.9 million) EU project investigating how data centres can be designed and operated to make more efficient use of renewable energy has been launched.
The three-year RenewIT project plans to develop a web-based planning tool that will help data centre operators understand the costs related to building a facility that uses renewable energy, such as wind, solar and biomass, for power, as well as for cooling, with air and sea water.
Project spokesperson Andrew Donoghue of 451 Research said that "only a minority" of European data centres are currently powered by renewable energy.
"Of those that do, the motivation is usually to gain positive publicity or curry favour with regulators rather than for purely commercial reasons," he said.
According to the project co-ordinator, Dr Jaume Salom of IREC, the main roadblocks to using renewable energy are the perceived costs and the lack of tools to help operators make decisions about using it.
"This project aims to overcome some of these obstacles by designing tools to evaluate the environmental performance and the share of renewable energy sources in the emerging concept of Net Zero Energy datacentres," said Salom.
The fluctuating nature of renewable energy is one of the main challenges of using it to power data centres, which are today built to receive continuous power flow. The RenewIT project hopes to address this by developing tools that help match the intermittent flow of renewable energy with the applications and workloads being executed by the data centre.
Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, RenewIT's partner, will develop algorithms for scheduling workloads, to add to current research on relationships between performance and energy consumption.
RenewIT will also look at ways to better integrate data centres with smart cities infrastructure by plugging into smart grid and micro grids.
The project will use its links with eight data centres across Europe to test the robustness and end user applicability of the project's technical energy concepts and simulation software tools in a live environment.
RenewIT began on 1 October 2013 and is led by not-for-profit energy research centre Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC). The other members of the project are 451 Research, Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), Loccioni Group of Italy, AIGUASOL, Amsterdam-based datacentre design specialist DEERNS, and Technische Universitt Chemnitz, Professorship Technical Thermodynamics.
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