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Turning a Data Center into Its Own Power Plant

In March, the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace released a report contending that by 2020, the major cloud computing providers could consumer more power than France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined. Greenpeace’s report was meant to highlight the carbon footprint of data centers and to urge companies to take measures to move towards more sustainable technologies.

Praised in the Greenpeace report were companies that use renewable energy from nearby hydroelectric plants, for example, to run their data centers. But what if servers could actually generate their own power?

That’s the goal of Applied Methodologies Inc., a New York based startup that is working to develop prototypes for servers that will use a portion of their waste heat in order to generate power. AMI’s Thermoelectric Generation Systems (TGS) uses the thermoelectric effect to generate electricity from the waste joule heat components.

According to a white paper published on the company site, “AMI can envision a future where the data center not only runs efficiently by utilizing some or all of the methods and technologies discussed in section two but also generates energy to offset the cost of the energy it consumes. If every device(router, switch, server, mainframe or appliance) in the data center utilized Thermoelectrics as part of their system design and manufacturing standard, the data center is transformed into an energy generating power plant.”

Some data centers are already using waste heat to help warm nearby offices or other parts of the data center. But AMI says its technology can address the power needs of the data center equipment itself: a 1U TGS server can generate 10 volts and 5 amps at current efficiency levels. According to an interview with Data Center Knowledge, the company estimates it will cost between $10 to $20 per server to integrate the thermoelectric generators into a prototype.

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