March 19, 2014 report
GreenDataNet looking to use retired car batteries to power data centers
(Phys.org) —GreenDataNet, a research project sponsored by the European Union, is looking at using batteries from electric or hybrid vehicles as a possible type of power storage for use in conjunction with renewable sources to address the growing power needs of data centers. A web site describing the initiative and its goals has been created and calls attention to the increasing pressure that data centers are putting on power grids.
GreenDataNet notes that approximately 2.5 percent of all electricity currently generated in Europe goes towards running data centers—by 2019, that number is expected to jump to five percent. Fearful that data centers will soon be causing black or brownouts, European Union officials called for a research project to be undertaken to find out whether data centers could be made more efficient, and whether power for them could be found in other ways. That's the mandate for GreenDataNet—they plan to study both software and hardware solutions, which would include developing load balancing systems to shift power needs between centers. More importantly, of course, the project will look to find new ways to provide additional power exclusively to the data centers—one of those is an idea not heard before—using discarded car batteries.
The batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles typically last just fourteen years—after repeated use they hold less charge—not enough for use in a vehicle, but still enough to be used for other purposes. In this case, the idea would be to store power generated by wind and solar farms and make it available to data centers. If viable the idea would solve another problem in the coming years—what to do with all the car batteries that will be piling up as more and more consumers buy electric and hybrid vehicles.
Demonstrating its willingness to work towards solving data center power needs, the EU has given GreenDataNet 2.9m euro (another 1.4m will come from other sources). If car batteries are eventually used to help provide power from renewable sources, presumably they would be set up in large farms, with new used batteries constantly added, as older ones lose their usefulness and are removed. That still leaves the problem of what to do with the batteries once they are no longer useful, but that might be less of a concern if they can be used, at least for a while, to help keep data centers running.
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