DC power uses less electricity than AC at Duke Energy data center

Palo Alto, Calif., November 16, 2010 — A preliminary test by the Electric Power Research Institute of a direct current (DC) power system at a Duke Energy data center in Charlotte, North Carolina found that the system uses 15 percent less electricity than the existing alternating current (AC) power system.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported to Congress that data center industry power consumption doubled from 2000 to 2006 and was expected to double again over the next five years. If this trend continues to 2016, then reducing data centers’ energy consumption could reduce demand more than 25 billion kWh per year.

“While this is significant news for any company running a data center today, this could be especially critical for the more than 2.5 million smaller data centers across the United States that rely upon inexpensive yet viable ways to reduce costs,” said Curtis Watkins in Duke Energy‘s Technology Development group. “If this DC technology was implemented in all those data centers the impact could be significant.”

For the Duke Energy demonstration project, the data center’s 480V AC was converted to 380V DC and delivered to the equipment racks via a 380V DC bus. The 15 percent energy savings provides a good benchmark for the industry because the 480 V AC system configuration is typical for data centers across the United States.

“DC-powered data centers provide increased energy savings by eliminating multiple power conversion stages,” said Omar Siddiqui, director of energy utilization research for EPRI. “Through similar circuit elimination, the data center servers are also made more efficient.”

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