GE Invests in Green Data Center Startup SynapSense

Updated: GE has poured some $175 million into more than 20 greentech companies over the years, and this morning it’s made another investment. GE says it will invest part of a $5 million round into SynapSense, a startup launched by former Intel (s INTC) exec Peter Van Deventer and UC Davis computer science professor Raju Pandey that makes wireless sensor technology and software to monitor and reduce power usage and cooling in data centers. Other investors in the round include Emerald Technology Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, American River Ventures, Nth Power and DFJ Frontier.

As important as the equity investment, GE says it has also created a commercial partnership with SynapSense, whereby GE will combine SynapSense’s wireless gear and software technology with GE’s monitoring software and gear for IT systems. GE says that the combo could offer customers a way to save 35 percent on facility cooling costs.

GE’s investment and collaboration with SynapSense comes on the heels of its big push into the smart grid earlier this month with the announcement of a $200 million fund for smart grid startups, a new electric vehicle charger, and a home energy management device called the Nucleus. GE says the SynapSense deal is part of this new focus on “digital energy services, the Smart Grid and ecomagination.”

As more data centers are built to support our growing always-on Internet consumption habits, data center energy use has been growing rapidly. The electricity used by the world’s servers alone doubled between 2000 and 2005, to about 123 billion kilowatt-hours, and if current trends continue, data center power use is likely to increase another 76 percent by 2010.

SynapSense, founded in 2006, uses its wireless monitoring system to offer up real-time thermal, pressure and humidity readings that can help data center operators keep an eye on their operations and spot ways to cut energy use. The company supports the 802.15.4 radio standard, which is the basis for ZigBee, and SynapSense says its system can help save up to 20 percent on overall energy costs.

In addition to the GE investment, SynapSense is also backed by American River Ventures, Emerald Technology Ventures, Sequoia Capital, DFJ Frontier and Nth Power. GE has been using SynapSense’s gear in its data centers since 2008, as has HP (s HP).

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