by Tim Moran
Would you like to save some big money running your data center?
Well, not milk, exactly, but Got Cows? About 10,000 of them?
An HP Labs research paper presented at the ASME International Conference on Energy Sustainability in Phoenix claims that "the manure output of cows and the heat output of data centers can be combined to create an economically and environmentally sustainable operation."
According to HP, "10,000 dairy cows could fulfill the power requirements of a 1-megawatt (MW) data center-the equivalent of a medium-sized data center-with power left over to support other needs on the farm." Apparently, the heat generated by the data center can aid the anaerobic digestion of animal waste, which results in the production of methane that can be used to generate power for the data center. "This symbiotic relationship allows the waste problems faced by dairy farms and the energy demands of the modern data center to be addressed in a sustainable manner."
HP admits that dairy farms and data centers might sound like strange bedfellows, but "both can be aligned to create a sustainable life cycle, using technologies readily available today."
The average dairy cow produces about 55 kg (120 pounds) of manure per day, and approximately 20 metric tons per year; the manure that one dairy cow produces in a day can generate 3.0 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electrical energy, which is enough to power television usage in three U.S. households per day; approximately 70 percent of the energy in the methane generated via anaerobic digestion could be used for data center power and cooling, thus reducing the impact on natural resources.
So, if you've got a very large dairy farm anywhere near your data center, you might want to stop by and shoot the bull, because, like I've always said, cows are a gas.