EETD Researchers Contribute to Efficient DC-Power Data Center at UC San Diego

October 26, 2010

The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at UC San Diego is operating a set of servers in a campus data center on 380-volt DC (direct current) power. The new modular data center on campus has sensors and other instruments to measure the energy efficiency of information and communication technologies, the infrastructure that supports it - and to help researchers build greener IT systems and software.

The direct current technology in the center eliminates the need for multiple conversions back and forth between AC to DC power, which are used in AC-based data centers that are in common use today. This technology approach has been pioneered by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute and numerous high technology private sector manufacturers.

William Tschudi, EETD Program Manager, "we're pleased to be part of this project to implement DC-power technology in a major, high profile University. The DC power approach offers many advantages over traditional AC powered systems. It eliminates several power conversions and it will involve less equipment. This will improve reliability (fewer potential points of failure) and should reduce capital cost. This will help operators save energy and money. Power quality issues should also improve with the use of the DC power technology."

The project is one of the first installations in the United States to utilize system components specifically manufactured for this 380-volt DC power system topology. Switching to an all-DC power distribution is expected to increase the 'computing work per watt,' a barometer of energy efficiency in computing environments. In addition to significant energy savings, other potential benefits include improved power quality, reduced cooling needs, higher equipment densities, reduced heat-related failures, improved reliability (from fewer components) and greater ease of use of renewable sources.

The project was a strategic partnership between UCSD and its partners, including several members of the EMerge Alliance, an open industry association leading the adoption of safe DC power distribution in commercial buildings through the development of standards. The EMerge Alliance is developing a 380-volt DC power standard for inclusion in its hybrid alternating current (AC) and DC microgrid platform. This open architecture focuses on reducing or eliminating inefficient AC to DC conversions that occur between power sources and digital devices in commercial buildings by converting and distributing power in DC form. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a member of the EMerge Alliance, and Tschudi is a member of EMerge Alliance's Advisory Council.