IBM rolls out solar array designed for data centers

The new array is spread over more than 6,000 square-feet of rooftop covering IBM's India Software Lab in Bangalore

Armonk, N.Y., November 3, 2011 — IBM is rolling out a solar power array designed specifically to run high-voltage data centers, integrating AC- and DC-based servers, water-cooled computing systems and related electronics.

The new array is spread over more than 6,000 square-feet of rooftop covering IBM's India Software Lab in Bangalore. The solar array is capable of providing a 50-kW supply of electricity for up to 330 days a year, for an average of five hours a day.

By employing unique high-voltage DC power conditioning methods — and reducing AC-DC conversion losses — the new IBM solution can cut energy consumption of data centers by about 10 percent and tailors solar technology for wider use in industrial IT and electronics installations.

In many emerging markets, electrical grids are undependable or non-existent. Companies are forced to rely on expensive diesel generators. That makes it difficult and expensive to deploy a lot of computers, especially in the concentrated way they're used in data centers.

Using IBM's solution, a bank, a telecommunications company or a government agency could contemplate setting up a data center that doesn't need the grid. The solution, in effect, creates its own DC mini-grid inside the data center.

High-voltage, DC computer servers and water-cooling systems are beginning to replace traditional, AC-powered servers and air-conditioning units in data centers. IBM's Bangalore array is the first move to blend solar power, water cooling and power conditioning into a "snap-together" package suitable to run massive configurations of electronic equipment.

IBM plans for the Bangalore solar-power system to connect directly into the data center's water-cooling and high-voltage DC systems. The integrated solution can provide a compute power of 25 to 30 teraflops using an IBM Power Systems server on a 50 kW solar power supply.

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