Data Centers Can Now Earn the Energy Star Label

June 9, 2010

Photo of a man pushing buttons on a long row of computer equipment, with two more men working in the background.

Data centers, the workhorses of the Internet, can now earn the Energy Star label.
Credit: Pat Corkery

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on June 7 that stand-alone data centers and buildings that house large data centers can now earn the Energy Star label. Data centers are the workhorses of the Internet, serving up the graphics and text that we see as Web pages, but they can also provide a wide range of computing services. To earn the Energy Star label, data centers must be in the top 25% off their peers in terms of energy efficiency, as measured by EPA's energy performance scale. The EPA uses a commonly accepted measure for energy efficiency, the Power Usage Effectiveness metric, to determine whether a data center qualifies for the Energy Star label. Before being awarded the Energy Star, a licensed professional must independently verify the energy performance of these buildings and sign and seal the application document that is sent to the EPA for review and approval. The Energy Star program is a joint effort of DOE and the EPA.

Data centers are found in nearly every sector of the economy and deliver vital information technology services, including data storage, communications, and Internet accessibility. Data centers use a significant amount of energy, accounting for 1.5% of total U.S. electricity consumption at a cost of $4.5 billion annually, an amount that is expected to almost double over the next five years. Based on the latest available data, improving the energy efficiency of U.S. data centers by just 10% would save more than 6 billion kilowatt-hours each year, enough to power more than 350,000 homes and save more than $450 million annually. See the EPA press release and the Data Center Energy Efficiency Initiatives page on the Energy Star Web site.

Data centers can improve energy efficiency in many ways, such as purchasing Energy Star-qualified servers and ensuring that all cooling equipment functions properly. In fact, DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has been studying energy use in data centers for years, and has compiled a list of 67 best practices for data centers, covering such topics as air delivery systems and water systems for cooling, internal and external power supplies, and other issues. LBNL also worked with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company to create design guidelines for high-performance data centers. Access to both is available on the "Data Centers: Best Practice Summaries" page on LBNL's High-Performance Buildings for High-Tech Industries Web site.