Remember this post about generating power from cow manure?
It’s catching on.
Computer and software giant Hewlett-Packard has produced a paper outlining how dairy farmers could partner with technology companies by converting manure into fuel for power-intensive data and server centers. This proposed partnership results partly from improvements in high-speed data transfer that are enabling tech companies to locate their servers further from population centers, in places like rural Iowa. It’s also partly the result of the massive and always growing power needs of these data centers or server farms.
In the same way that the volume of waste produced by cows is not always evident from the kitchen table, the vast energy demands of the high-tech sector are not always apparent from the vantage point of a desktop computer. But behind the scenes, there are so many servers supporting the high-speed transfer of data around the world that they are housed together in vast warehouses commonly known as server farms.
How much power do these server farms consume? No one seems to have a good answer to that, but everyone agrees it’s an enormous amount. The high-tech companies that operate these server farms have been described as energy hogs, and many have identified growing power demands as one of their main concerns. So big a concern, in fact, that they are seriously exploring options like cow power.
The New York Times reports that Hewlett-Packard calculates that 10,000 cows could fuel a one-megawatt data center, which would be the equivalent of a small computing center used by a bank. And, there’s another synergy to be had: The systems used to turn manure into fuel require heat, while computer servers produce heat. In theory at least, it could work quite well.