Power Conservation

Take these six smart steps to reduce computer energy consumption in your organization.

Take these six smart steps to reduce computer energy consumption in your organization.

As the cost of energy fluctuates, power management has become a central focus for government facilities. President Bush in December signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates that the federal government reduce its total energy usage in federal buildings by 30 percent by the year 2015.

Many state and local government leaders had been watching this legislation and began implementing their own green initiatives before the mandate passed. Here’s how to employ power management to reap savings in your organization.

Create an Energy Baseline

“Before investing your time and capital in power management best practices and technologies, get a thorough understanding of how much energy your critical IT assets within and outside of the data center are consuming,” says Forrester Research Analyst Doug Washburn.

Forrester calls this a green IT baseline, which measures the energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and financial costs of operating your IT environment. Armed with that information, you can take action and automate power management throughout your IT environment.

For example, consider technologies that can help you automate power measurement, such as Avocent’s DSView 3 Power Manager, or even automate power management tools, such as Faronics’ Power Save or Verdiem’s Surveyor.

Invest in an Energy Manager

James W. Hunt, chief of environmental and energy services for the city of Boston, recommends organizations hire an energy manager to procure energy and manage how it’s consumed throughout the facility. “This individual will look holistically into your situation, examine your environmental impact and then implement measures that will save your facility a lot of money,” he says.

For example, by merging Boston’s 2,500 separate meters into a single account, the city could demand a more competitive energy price. Bigger markets mean a greater scale, which means you have more influence over where your energy comes from. Boston stipulates a minimum of 12 percent of energy must come from wind power. Through energy management, the city has realized savings of more than $1 million a year.

“One thing we found out was that even when computers and monitors are in sleep mode, they’re still using energy, or sucking juice. We call this ‘vampire power,’” says Hunt. The city deployed HP Verdiem to manage computers and monitors using features that power them off at scheduled times. “It has paid for itself in energy savings in less than nine months.”

Implement Power Management

Gopal Khanna, CIO of Minnesota, notes that more than 92 percent of the state’s desktop and notebook computers are now under active power management, which has considerably reduced consumption. This practice includes activating internal power management features, implementing centralized power management, and instituting or enhancing internal policies for mandatory stand-by and turn-off practices.

For example, results of a Minnesota survey of desktop energy savings from actively (or passively, through software) powering down desktops at night shows an approximate average annual savings of $50 per computer and monitor across the executive branch. With 29,500 desktop computers, the statewide savings is approximately $1.4 million per year, adds Khanna.

“There are plenty of energy-smart management tools on the web, including those from the EPA, that allow you to enable power management for free,” says Vijay Sammeta, deputy director of IT operations for the city of San Jose. He notes a variety of options that can save a considerable amount of energy, from servers that can lower the wattage of the CPU when demand is low to software management tools that can monitor, manage and maintain energy used by desktops, notebooks and other office equipment. There are even smart power strips that can turn equipment on and off at timed intervals.

Install Energy-Efficient Servers and UPS Systems

An IT spokesman for the New York Power Authority (NYPA) says his facility exclusively uses a single brand of server, unless there is a special requirement. The agency prefers a manufacturer that’s Energy Star–certified and a member of the Green Grid and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative. The server power supplies lead the industry globally in efficiency, reliability, power density, size, flexibility, cost and commonality, and exceed 90 percent efficiency. Additionally, ambient temperature sensors keep the servers within optimal operating temperatures.

NYPA also installed a new, efficient data center–class UPS and located it in the building’s mechanical room, which eliminated more than 50 local and dedicated smaller UPS units. The individual UPS systems were operating under various loads — some very low and some near the maximum, which contributed significantly to the heat load.

Optimize and Manage Power Remotely

David Fletcher, chief technology officer for Utah, notes his state has been developing a green IT initiative as part of a broader effort to conserve energy. Some of these initiatives include implementing a desktop and notebook computer standardization program that meets specific environmental criteria; computer power optimization through energy-efficient software and multifunctional hardware devices; and remote desktop management capabilities (which include, among other things, energy management and maintenance).

These initiatives have saved the state about 59,178,160 kilowatt-hours annually, Fletcher adds. At Utah’s current, average rate of 6.9 cents per kWh, that translates to just over $4 million a year. In addition, Utah is the first state to institute a mandatory four-day work week.

Tackle as a Team

Finally, Minnesota’s Khanna recommends that organizations make green a team project. Educate and inspire your employees, he suggests, then publish the results. “Implement a continual program of employee education regarding the importance of executing and continuing power management of desktop computers,” he says.

According to Khanna, most employees feel a sense of pride working in an organization that contributes to lessening the environmental impact. Knowing that they’re helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions through power management makes employees feel more personally involved. However, they may see their contribution as small and insignificant. Publishing the facility’s total environmental­-impact reduction boosts their morale considerably and informs the residents of Minnesota that the state is doing its part for the environment.

Counting the Savings

Action Annual savings
City of Boston merges 2,500 separate meter accounts; bids out for alternative energy options More than $1 million
Utah reduces 59,178,160 kWh annually More than $4 million
Minnesota reduces power consumption on 29,500 desktop computers $1.4 million, 17.6 million kWh and 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions
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Jan 15 2009