eBay lights up largest solar installation

The project in Topaz, Utah, will handle about 10 percent of the e-commerce giant's data center power requirements for the site.

It is in e-commerce giant eBay's operational interest to save as much electricity expense as possible, which is why you will continue to see the company take a very public role when it comes to best practices for green data center centers.

Those best practices are being split between both energy efficiency measures and renewable energy technology investments. Accordingly, this week, the company flipped the switch on its largest rooftop solar installation so far, designed and integrated by SPG Solar.

The installation atop its data center in Topaz, Utah, (pictured) has a capacity of 665 kilowatts and it covers 72,000 square feet of the facility's roof. (Almost the entire roof.) In the course of a year, the installation is expected to produce 924,013 kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to eBay's calculations. Astonishingly, this will be only about 10 percent of the load needed to support the data center underneath it. Each of the 2,735 panels on the roof will be dedicated to eBay green team members.

"Combined with the new renewable legislative provision that will go into effect this summer, this project demonstrates that we will do what we can, where we can, to source cleaner, greener energy," said eBay in a blog post about the project. "But it also illustrates that 'silver bullet' solutions are hard to come by."

The new solar installation brings eBay's total investment in onsite renewable energy technology to about 2 megawatts in generating capacity, or about 11 percent of the company entire data center electricity demand. eBay has installed other solar arrays in Denver and at its San Jose, Calif., headquarters site. It has also invested in a 500-kilowatt Bloom Energy fuel cell installation.

eBay also has been working closely with industry group Green Grid to put some of its green data center energy efficiency best practices into real-world use.

In late February, eBay disclosed that Green Grid's ideas were behind its recently completed data center in Phoenix, which was boasting average power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratios of 1.35 in January 2012. PUE is a measure that describes the ratio of cooling technology needed for running the IT within a data center.

eBay agreed to share some of its best practices for the data center as part of a Green Grid case study. Among other things, the company opted for a hot water cooling system that only requires that traditional chillers be operated a few times per year. eBay also opted for a modular design for its racks in order to balance space, power, cooling, cabling and weight. These configurations can be used for future technologies, which helps hold down future capital costs.