A New Green Gold Standard

A recent Environmental Protection Agency study on energy-saving opportunities in servers and data centers noted that the industry uses an enormous amount of energy -- more than 1.5% of all electricity generated in the U.S. -- and that that number is expected to double over the next five years. So it's no surprise that many people see data centers as a major part of the climate change problem.

But the EPA sees this as an opportunity. Data center operators can take a leadership role as part of the global climate change solution. And toward that end, the agency is working to develop an energy performance rating system for data centers.

Just as it is familiar as a mark of energy efficiency in consumer electronics and appliances, in recent years, Energy Star has become known as a symbol of superior energy efficiency for commercial buildings. The more than 6,200 offices, schools, retail stores, hotels and other buildings across the U.S. that have earned the Energy Star label use 35% less energy and generate 35% less greenhouse gas emissions than average buildings.

With the EPA's energy performance rating for data centers, tentatively planned for early 2010, data center operators will be able to assess the energy use of their facilities and will receive a metric that allows them to compare how they are performing relative to their peers. The rating will compare the energy use of one facility against that of similar facilities across the country, using the EPA's unique 1-to-100 rating system.

Here's how it will work: Data center operators will enter basic information about their energy use and operational characteristics into a password-protected account they establish in the EPA's Portfolio Manager, an online energy-benchmarking tool (www.energystar.gov/benchmark). A score of 50 indicates average performance. A score of 75 or higher means the facility is in the top 25% in terms of energy efficiency, qualifying the data center for an Energy Star label.

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