I recently participated in an effort sponsored by the Bonneville Power Administration to identify leading energy efficiency program measures suitable for delivery to the server room and small data center market in the Pacific Northwest. The overall project umbrella is named the Energy Efficiency Emerging Technologies, or E3 program.
The collaborative project was lead by the Wahington State University Extension Energy Program, pulling together a pretty heady roster of utility and industry participants.
The process included an initial identification of around fifty energy efficiency measures, which were whittled down to ten or so. After presentations on each of the technologies, the team chose a set of measures to pass along to BPA.
Narrowing down the measures to those that are suitable for server rooms and closets wasn't too difficult, but trying to score the measures based on their suitability for a prescriptive rebate program approach I think proved difficult for the team.
(A prescriptive rebate program offers a set financial incentive for qualified products or services - like offering $150 per server removed during a virtualization/consolidation project.)
However difficult the process might have been, I heartily agree with at least three of the four recommended measures: server virtualization, solid state drives, ongoing commissioning of economizers, and airflow management.
I continue to recommend that utilities offer rebate programs for server virtualization (really, for consolidation, and I prefer using virtualization/consolidation as the moniker) for the small data center market, as I'm convinced that market penetration there is still low. The measure captures the removal of unused but still deployed servers, the energy efficiency gains from the latest model servers, and the reduction of servers deployed through virtualization.
The solid state drive measure will need research work to develop program parameters, but I think it has lots of potential across all classes of data centers.
Commissioning of existing economizers was not a measure I supported, simply because most server rooms, and indeed enterprise data centers, don't have economizers. (The group passed on recommending an economizer retrofit measure due to installation difficulties and the looming ASHRAE regulations that would appear to mandate the installation of economizers in all new construction and for any data center upgrade projects).
Lastly, some utilities have had great success with what I call an airflow management retro-commissioning program, or "tune up". The program pays for calculated energy savings based on on-site measurements before and after airflow management upgrades are installed, so it's not really a prescriptive program at all. Also, it is limited to server rooms and localised data centers with dedicated cooling systems, so addresses only larger facilities.
I would hope to see BPA and its member utilities take these recommendations to heart and deliver solid, consistent programs in the Northwest - there is scads of potential in this market and utilities can play a vital role in moving the market with these and other efficiency measures.