3 Basics for Data Center Efficiency

August 29, 2015 by

Efficiency Tips for Data CentersAs the backbone of the modern economy, data centers support corporate America and the server farms that host such popular cloud computing services as Amazon, Facebook, and Google. As a result of this growth, data centers are now one of the fastest-growing users — and wasters — of electricity in the U.S. This also makes them a key driver in the construction of new power plants.

According to the NRDC, in 2013 U.S. data centers consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity — enough to power all the households in New York City twice over — and are on-track to reach 140 billion by 2020.

We assume it is the largest, most well-known consumer and business data centers that hog the most energy. Actually, it’s the other smaller corporate data centers that uses the vast majority of energy. In fact, the average commercial office building spends close to one quarter of its annual energy bill powering server rooms and closets.

Why? According to a recent GreenBiz article, the quick answer is computer servers generate an enormous amount of waste heat. Just one rack of blade servers, for example, can generate heat equivalent to four gas barbecue grills, enough to cook nearly 300 burgers an hour.

Fortunately, the article goes on to note there are things that can be done to reduce data center energy consumption. The most efficient data centers and server rooms, for example, use up to 80% less power, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

The article lists the three basic ways to make server rooms and data centers more energy-efficient including:

1. Reduce the IT load

Saving just one watt of power at the server level can result in nearly three watts of total savings in a data center, because less power is consumed supporting the electrical infrastructure and cooling hot equipment. Strategies for reducing IT loads include server “virtualization” (which allows us to run more than one workload on a single server), consolidating lightly used servers and removing unused servers, smarter data storage, and buying more energy-efficient equipment, such as Energy Star qualified servers.

2. Manage airflow

Airflow management is about delivering cold air from AC units or fans to the fronts of servers as efficiently as possible, and removing hot exhaust air from the backs of servers as efficiently as possible. Airflow management strategies involve orienting server racks and enclosing them to reduce the mixing of cold supply air and hot exhaust air, using variable speed fan drives in AC units, and deploying devices to direct cold air to where it’s needed the most.

3. Control temperatures and humidity levels more efficiently

Because high temperatures and either damp or excessively dry conditions can harm sensitive data center equipment, temperatures and humidity levels must be managed. However, today’s data center equipment can tolerate much wider temperature and humidity ranges than in the past. As a result, it’s often possible to save energy by doing less cooling and humidification and dehumidification. Additionally, there are new, much more efficient ways to humidify air than the old standby of producing steam. Another strategy for reducing cooling costs includes deploying “economizers,” which take advantage of lower outside temperatures whenever possible to avoid having to mechanically cool air.

For even more steps on data center efficiency, read the complete GreenBiz article.

Wyoming County PA to Reduce Energy and Operating Costs by $3.9M

August 15, 2015 by

wyoming county reduces energy costsWyoming County in Pennsylvania has started an extensive energy and facility improvement initiative for its public buildings that is guaranteed to save them at least $3.9M in energy and operating costs over the next 15 years.

Experiencing significantly higher utility bills, Wyoming County officials wanted to lower costs and improve facility efficiency without increasing taxes in the area. They took the lead from neighboring Columbia County, who had already successfully utilized ABM Building Solutions’ Bundled Energy Solutions (BES) program to modernize their buildings and save $4.9M.

The success of the Columbia County project encouraged Wyoming County to implement its own customized BES program for key public buildings. The improvements — including upgrading HVAC systems and integrating building automation and PC management systems — will lower Wyoming County’s utility costs by an average of 33%, including an impressive 49% savings for the County’s Courthouse.

For more details on Wyoming County’s energy efficiency efforts, read the complete press release.

New Tenant-Focused Legislation to Accelerate Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

August 4, 2015 by

Congress has paved the way to take U.S. building efficiency to a whole new level. They have passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill that most notably directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create a tenant-focused version of the successful ENERGY STAR building efficiency program.

tenant plug loadAccording to a recent Greenbiz article, the new initiative, which gives EPA the option of calling the new program Tenant Star, is being hailed by a wide range of industry stakeholders as the next great tool for driving energy savings in commercial buildings.

Tenant leased spaces typically represent 50% or more of a building’s overall energy use, presenting often overlooked energy savings opportunities. To unlock the market potential and reduce the estimated $20B spent annually on commercial office buildings’ energy use, a comprehensive building efficiency program is essential. Tenant Star would complement the widely recognized whole building ENERGY STAR label and address often overlooked energy savings in leased spaces through cooperation between commercial building owners and operators and tenants.

ENERGY STAR is already helping more than 400,000 commercial building measure, track, assess, and report their energy and water use and as of 2012, a program benchmark showed an average of 7% of whole building energy savings over a period of three years.

But as owners become more sophisticated about managing energy use in their buildings, they are finding that tenant’s plug and process loads — from refrigerators, computers, printers, and other tenant space items — are becoming the fastest-growing category of energy use in office buildings today. So while owners are investing millions to have high-performing buildings, tenant and occupant behavior may be off-setting the savings and undoing all their good work!

The proposed Tenant Star program could help secure owner investments by providing a federally funded engagement platform to present to prospective tenants. According to the article, the program’s savings potential is staggering. Based on the amount of leased office space in the U.S. and their plug loads, just a 15% savings in tenant spaces could be worth almost a billion dollars in avoided energy costs.

While the bill has paved the way for this new program, it didn’t actually provide any funding, so there is a long road ahead for Tenant Star to be launched. And there are other issues as well, including accurate energy usage data sourcing for the new program as the vast majority of leased office spaces are not sub- or separately metered. However, there are potential solutions for all the obstacles, but realizing the program and its benefits will require sustained effort over time.

But the potential of this proposed program is huge — it could cut utility bills for landlords and tenants by an estimated $2B by 2030 and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 12M metric tons! Some leading owners and managers already understand this and have solid tenant engagement programs in place. But for many owners and managers, the establishment of Tenant Star could provide greater motivation for them to develop a tenant engagement plan that tackles reducing energy use.

For more details on the new Energy Efficiency Improvement Act and the Tenant Star program, check out the complete Greenbiz.com article.

Organizations Recognized for Cutting Parking Facility Energy Use

July 25, 2015 by

LEEP AwardsThe U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Alliance recently recognized 18 high-achieving U.S. businesses for leading the way to more energy-efficient outdoor lighting. As participants of its Lighting Energy Efficiency in Parking (LEEP) Campaign, the organizations honored have committed to installing high-efficiency lighting across more than 500M square feet of parking space and use a third less energy.

Among the winners are Arby’s Restaurant Group, Denver International Airport, USAA Real Estate, the University of Minnesota, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Building owners spend more than $16B annually to light their parking lots and garages, but by improving their outdoor lighting by at least 60%, American building owners could save more than $9B annually across 215B square feet of parking facilities. The LEEP Campaign is a program offering free guidance, recognition, and support to encourage facility owners interested in implementing energy-efficient lighting solutions in their parking facilities.

“It might only take one person to change a light bulb, but it took dedicated efforts by the many thoughtful leaders of LEEP award winners to demonstrate how much can be gained through advanced, cost-effective lighting technologies in parking lots and garages,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, David Danielson. “These innovative solutions also enhance safety and improve working conditions for customers, tenants, and employees.”

Altogether, 2014 and 2015 LEEP award winners are saving nearly 30M kilowatt-hours (kWh) and $3M each year by upgrading to high efficiency exterior metal halide, fluorescent, and LED solutions that last two to five times longer than previously-used technologies, and by using controls to reduce energy use when parking facilities are not in use. Some LEEP award-winning sites have reduced their energy use by as much as 90 percent!

The LEEP Campaign is organized by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, the Green Parking Council, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), and the International Parking Institute (IPI). The Better Buildings Alliance is the campaign’s technical advisor. To date, more than 140 U.S. businesses and organizations are participating in the campaign and planning or installing energy efficient lighting in their parking lots and garages.

As a cornerstone of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Better Buildings Alliance aims to make commercial, public, industrial, and residential buildings 20% more energy efficient over the next decade. Through Better Buildings, public and private sector organizations across the country are working together to share and replicate positive gains in energy efficiency and propel change and investment in energy efficiency.

Providing Financial Solutions for the Technical and Sustainability Needs of Public Schools

July 21, 2015 by

financial solutions for schoolsEnergy has become a huge expense in K-12 schools across the U.S. They spend approximately $8B a year on utilities and energy alone. This makes it difficult for them to fund the critical building maintenance and system improvements they need to ensure an indoor learning environment that is optimal for the highest student achievement and success.

So what’s the solution? Financial solutions that help K-12 schools meet their facility needs without increasing taxpayer burden, decreasing staff, or cutting educational programs. These creative solutions reallocate current and future operating budgets and utilize energy savings, so schools no longer have to choose between upgrading facilities or educational enhancements.

One of the most successful programs that offer these solutions to help schools overcome their budget constraints and aging facilities is ABM’s Bundled Energy Solutions (BES) program. The program has helped many K-12 schools around the country fund their infrastructure maintenance and improvements through guaranteed energy savings, with zero budget impact.

Check out this eye-opening SlideShare Presentation that spotlights six K-12 schools that have successfully used the BES program to find the funding for their critical facility improvements and the benefits they received.