Alternative power source for data centres

A team from HP Labs has shown that methane produced from cows could be used to support data centres requiring vast amounts of energy.

As data centres require ever more power to operate, they’re increasingly being located near existing power generation or cooling resources. One largely untapped source of energy, however, is the methane generated by cows on farms around the world.

If released into the atmosphere, methane is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. But it can be captured and used to power electrical generators.

The HP researchers have shown that a farm of 10,000 dairy cows could generate 1MW of electricity, enough to power a typical modern data centre and still support other needs on the farm.

Heat generated by a data centre could also be used to more efficiently process the animal waste and thus increase methane production.

This symbiotic relationship would help address the dual challenge of reducing farm pollution and making data centres more environmentally sustainable, said Chandrakant Patel, HP Fellow and director of the company’s Sustainable IT Ecosystem Lab.