Utility companies are going on the offensive in the battle against power hungry data centers. Just weeks after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E ) announced rebates for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s energy friendly Niagara T1000 and T2000 servers and for virtualization projects, another utility has offered to pony up for energy-efficient equipment.
Spokane, Wash.-based Avista Corp., a utility serving the Pacific Northwest, announced today that it will reward customers for installing SprayCool-enabled servers from ISR Inc. The program provides a rebate of $100 per SprayCool-enabled server or up to $3,600 for each SprayCool-enabled rack. The program is applicable to any new construction or upgrade of existing facilities and infrastructures.
Liberty Lake, Wash.-based ISR recently rolled out its first commercial offering for the data center, the SprayCool M-Series. The SprayCool technology uses inert liquid in a closed loop system, directly applied to server chips. It's currently selling as an aftermarket attachment for x86 servers and racks.
The utility is offering the rebate because it has determined that SprayCool's liquid cooling technology is more efficient than using traditional forced air methods, according to Tom Lienhard, senior energy engineer at Avista.
Liquid cooling is emerging as a viable option as data center pros run into power and cooling capacity issues. IBM, Sun and Hewlett-Packard Co. all announced their own liquid cooling technologies this year. Also, the ASHRAE 9.9 Technical Committee recently finished a liquid cooling book that will be available in the coming months.
More utilities get onboard
Many utilities have demand-side management programs that encourage commercial customers to reduce energy, and some offer incentives on a prescriptive basis for buying more energy-efficient products.
PG&E and Avista are unique in their focus on the data center customer, but many expect other utilities to follow suit.
"Will this cause other utilities to take this up faster? Yes," Lienhard said. "They'll be able to talk to me or someone else at the utility about why we did this and why it's good for the customers."
Avista charges commercial customers between five cents and six cents per kilowatt hour and is among the lowest priced utilities in the country. If they can justify the payback, other utilities will likely be able to as well.
"Avista picking it up is a sign that it's not just Silicon Valley. This is a trend that could catch on anywhere with all utility companies," said Patchen Noelke, director of marketing at ISR. "I think it's an important green issue."
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