One of the key motivations for pursuing energy efficiency initiatives in existing data centers is to avoid the capital expense of developing new facilities - a point that proponents of the myriad measures and technologies that improve efficiency sometimes have a difficult time quantifying.
So, just how much does new data center capacity cost? Fortuitously, capital costs came up in several presentations at the Uptime Symposium in New York last week, and I gut-checked that with a highly-regarded consultant who advises clients on where to build "utility scale" centers.
I had always heard the rule of thumb that it costs $10 million a megawatt to build a new data center, with some variation based on tier (the reliability index administered by Uptime).
My fellow consultant said that that is pretty much at the low end of the range, with some centers coming in as high as $20 million per MW.
I don't have clarity on whether that is based on total load, or is referring solely to IT equipment capacity, though I suspect it's the latter.
In one presentation, NetApp, who have shown a real proclivity for building energy efficient data centers, mentioned that their new facility in New Carolina came in at $6.5 million per megawatt. (Note that highly-efficient data centers in some ways can cost more to build than "standard" designs, but in some ways can cost less.)
And I still recall Scott Noteboom of Yahoo! indicating that their current cost was on the order of $5 million per megawatt, with a goal of $3.5 million per in next generation facilities. (The "chicken coop" design for Yahoo!'s new data center in New York does not feature chillers or UPS and some power conditioning equipment, which clearly drives down costs and complexity.)
The trick in my mind is figuring out to merge the operational cost savings from energy efficiency initiatives with the avoided capital costs of building new capacity to deliver a compelling financial value picture. I don't know of anyone who is doing that yet, but would certainly be interested in thoughts from anyone who has tried.