Cutting Data Center Energy As Easy As Containing Cooling

Facebook, Google (s GOOG) and Yahoo (s YHOO) have recently been innovating around building greener data centers, but not all energy efficiency data center projects have to be so novel. Some (arguably most) of the solutions are downright boring. Take an announcement from Verizon (s VZ) this morning — the telco has been cutting the energy consumption of its data centers by installing panels made by Polargy which isolate air from data center cooling systems in certain areas that need it.

Polargy’s so-called containment systems — essentially panels and curtains made of plastic and vinyl — separate cold and hot air and maximize the efficiency of a data center cooling system. Cooling can commonly consume around 50 percent of a data center’s energy consumption, and cooling is the low hanging fruit where data center operators are first investigating reducing energy use.

Verizon says it’s using Polargy panels in 12 of its data centers and has improved energy efficiency by 7.7 percent, and saved 18.8 million kilowatt hours per year. That’s significant savings on Verizon’s annual energy bill.

Other data center operators like Facebook and Yahoo have more recently turned to tapping into outside air to cheaply and efficiently cool their data centers. Yahoo has developed a chicken coop-style design that enables air to flow across the building and servers, and Facebook recently implemented evaporative cooling, which basically sprays water onto air coming into the data center to cool it. The biggest limitation for data centers dependent on outside air for cooling is that the location has to have the right (not hot) climate.

The next step after data center operators have incorporated energy efficiency designs and tech into their data centers is to look at ways to incorporate more clean power into the equation. On that front, Google has been a leader, investing in wind and solar farms and creating a subsidiary that can buy and sell energy on the wholesale markets.