Renewable energy is among the top emerging technologies being considered by data center owners to help address power and cooling costs, according to a new survey conducted by construction services provider Mortenson.
The company recently polled corporate data center executives, data center developers and operators, and information technology providers at the 2014 Data Center World conference. Mortenson says energy is by far the biggest cost for data centers, making power and cooling considerations the most important drivers in determining location, design and construction of facilities.
Although the survey found that the top thing data center operators would most like to change about their facilities is greater energy efficiency, the study also discovered that 84% of respondents feel there is a need to consider renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar, to manage future needs.
"Worldwide data usage continues to grow, which requires more infrastructure and power to support it, so it's vital that we leverage innovation to help balance energy demand and supply," says Scott Ganske, director of operations for Mortenson's Mission Critical Group.
"There are a number of promising technologies that will drive energy efficiency forward in the next few years; and renewable energy increasingly makes economic – as well as environmental – sense for the energy supply chain," he adds. "With costs dropping and operating efficiency rising, we believe renewables are rightly attracting interest from data center operators."
According to Mortenson, costs for producing wind power have decreased 58% in the past five years, with solar's costs dropping 40%. The company says the prices will continue to fall, making renewables more cost-competitive with traditional fuel sources in many markets.
At the same time, availability is steadily improving. Mortenson says wind farms, for example, generate power 50% of the time now, up from 35% in 2007. In fact, several leading technology firms in the U.S., including Google and Yahoo, are already investing in power purchase agreements with wind energy producers to lock in energy costs over the long term.