HP has built a test "Net Zero" Data Center in Palo Alto, a 3,000 square foot facility with 80 racks of servers and a 500 Kilowatt capacity. It mounted solar panels on the roof that can generate up to 134 Kilowatts.
Cullen Bash (photo), interim head of the Sustainable Ecosystems Research Group at HP Labs, said, "By balancing the application loads, avoiding using chillers, taking advantage of local sources of renewable energy, we can achieve significant power savings for data centers."
Although there are some benefits to existing data centers using the HP Labs architecture, the highest efficiencies would be gained by building a new data center.
The Net Zero approach lessens dependence on local power utility grids by as much as 80%. That can be important if companies are trying to use as much renewable energy as possible but are located in areas where power is coal-generated.
HP says that it's important to calculate life-time costs and the energy expended in manufacturing solar panels, computing equipment, etc.
Mr Bash said that his work on data centers is leading towards treating it as if it's one computer and that there would be a type of operating system managing the data center applications, cooling, and energy use, as in a desktop PC.
The HP Labs researchers will present a scientific paper describing their achievement, on Thursday at the IEEE’s 13th annual Intersociety Conference on Thermal and Thermomechanical Phenomena in Electrical Systems.
It's not yet clear how HP will monetize this work. Mr Bash said that HP operates and builds data centers for other companies, and there is some interest from one of HP's business groups, but there isn't any market plan at the moment.