Data center power ‘catastrophe’ never materialized

BOULDER, Colo., Feb. 15, 2002 — Two years ago, utilities feared a surge of new data center development would overwhelm the U.S. electric power supply, but those fears were never realized.

Now, utilities are preparing for the next wave of development of these facilities that house computers used to process and store digital information for the Internet, according to the latest in a series of E Source reports from Platts.

This series of studies titled, “Delivering Energy Services to Internet Hotels and Other High-Density Electronic Loads,” explains why those anticipated electric loads never materialized.

“Many of the data centers that were planned for were never built,” said Jay Stein, a director of E Source research at Platts and leader of the studies. “Those built and operating are running at low occupancy rates. Those that filled up drew much less power than anticipated.” Stein added that Austin Energy, the city of Austin’s municipal power utility, braced itself in early 2001 for a 100 megawatts (MW) of new data-center load, but only 6 MW actually came onto its system.

Now, utilities are preparing for a future wave of data center development as the economy improves and demand for Internet-based services ramps up accordingly. “There is the potential for a future power shortage,” Stein cautioned. “The amount of power drawn by microprocessor chips continues to rise, and so the computers installed in future data centers may demand much more power than those installed today.”

However, Stein says that a future power crunch is unlikely as U.S. utilities are already preparing for the next wave of data center industry expansion. “Utilities are instituting infrastructure charges that shift risk from the utility industry to the data center developers,” Stein says. “They are also encouraging their data center customers to use new, more efficient electronic technologies that only recently came onto the market.”

According to the studies, one such technology allows data centers to pack in eight times as many Internet servers without pushing up the electric bill. “More efficient technology is going to ease the way for future data centers,” Stein added.

To learn more about “Delivering Energy Services to Internet Hotels and Other High-Density Electronic Loads,” please call 720-548-5000.

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