Monday, May 24, 2010

HP Labs Designs Data Center Fueled by Manure


HP today presented new research from HP Labs,  central research arm of HP, has demonstrated the ability to create a sustainable IT ecosystem using dairy farm waste  and the heat output of data centers can be combined to create an economically and environmentally sustainable operation.

The research paper presented at the ASME International Conference on Energy Sustainability in Phoenix, Ariz., explains how a farm of 10,000 dairy cows could fulfill the power requirements of a 1-megawatt (MW) data center – the equivalent of a medium-sized data center. This also means that some power could be left over to support other needs on the farm.

This development indicated a substantial increase in the the efficiency of the anaerobic digestion of animal waste. The process results in production of methane, which can be used to generate power for the data center. In this process, the heat generated by the data center can be used to increase   This results in the production of . . This symbiotic relationship allows the waste problems faced by dairy farms and the energy demands of the modern data center to be addressed in a sustainable manner.

The development is most likely to benefit farmers in that:

  • The average dairy cow produces about 55 kg (120 pounds) of manure per day, and approximately 20 metric tons per year – roughly equivalent to the weight of four adult elephants.
  • The manure that one dairy cow produces in a day can generate 3.0 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electrical energy, which is enough to power television usage in three U.S. households per day.
  • A medium-sized dairy farm with 10,000 cows produces about 200,000 metric tons of manure per year. Approximately 70 percent of the energy in the methane generated via anaerobic digestion could be used for data center power and cooling, thus reducing the impact on natural resources.
  • Pollutants from unmanaged livestock waste degrade the environment and can lead to groundwater contamination and air pollution. Methane is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, which means that in addition to being an inefficient use of energy, disposal of manure through flaring can result in steep greenhouse gas emission taxes.
  • In addition to benefiting the environment, using manure to generate power for data centers could provide financial benefit to farmers. HP researchers estimate that dairy farmers would break even in costs within the first two years of using a system like this and then earn roughly $2 million annually in revenue from selling waste-derived power to data center customers. 


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