WP#65 - Data Center Airflow Management Calculators

22 July, 2015 | White Paper

Editors: Ted Brown, Seattle City Light Bob Landstrom, Interxion Contributors: Christa Ansberg, Google Victor Avelar, Schneider Electric Stephen Bryant, Schneider Electric Wenshu Fan, Nexant Consulting Magnus Herrlin, ANCIS Incorporated Michelle Lichtenfels, PECI Jessica Rose, Energy Trust of Oregon Ian Seaton, Chatsworth Products Inc. Enrique Castro-Leon, Intel Lars Strong, Upsite Technologies Eloise Young, Philadelphia Gas Works

In recent years, the nation and the world, alongside the utility sector, have shown concern over the large energy consumption of data centers. In the U.S., data center electricity use is estimated at approximately 2% of the total national consumption. Data centers, and other high density IT environments of all types, remain a growing energy end-user, as well as one of the most energy intensive facility types in utility portfolios.

For a data center facility, implementation of effective Airflow Management (AFM) practices serves as the key to unlock potential fan energy reductions, higher efficiency of mechanical cooling equipment, and additional hours of economizer “free” cooling. Simple steps toward improved airflow management, such as containment aisles and blanking panels used to separate cold air from hot air, not only provide effective temperature control, but can improve cooling system performance, increase data center energy efficiency, and reclaim stranded capacity in existing data centers.

Organizations such as The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE), among others, have documented the importance and benefits of AFM best practices. Despite these efforts, and the increasing availability of utility incentive programs willing to support AFM improvements, a widely accepted method for quantifying energy savings that can be realized from AFM measures has yet to be developed.

Many electric utilities have strong interest in providing efficiency incentive opportunities for data centers as part of their energy efficiency program mandates. For utility programs offering incentives, customized engineering calculations are typically needed in order to make reliable estimates of energy savings attributed to AFM measures. However, in small to mid-sized data centers (designed for up to 750 kW of critical load), hiring the expertise to assess, recommend, and compute return on investment (ROI) of the energy savings actions to receive utility incentives is often not cost-effective. As a result, many of these energy efficiency opportunities are never pursued.

The Green Grid is helping data centers achieve better energy efficiency performance through programs including development of the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) measurement and The Green Grid’s Data Center Maturity Model (DCMM). However, to further advance energy efficiency, empower a progression towards greater data center maturity, and claim available utility incentives , an energy efficiency calculator widely accepted by both the global data center and utility industry is needed.

Substantial variations exist in tools commonly available for evaluation of AFM potential. This paper will review the major publicly available software tools and calculators that exist today, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of each with respect to their applicability in estimating energy savings for utility incentives. Additionally, this paper will define the requirements for a calculator that will meet the needs of utilities and the data center industry. Development of calculators meeting these requirements will enable additional support by utilities and help drive adoption of AFM best practices.