Chip giant Intel Corp. (s INTC) unveiled a 10-kilowatt solar installation near its New Mexico manufacturing plant this weekend, launching its latest foray into clean energy for power-hungry data centers. While energy generated by the array’s 64 Sharp solar panels will feed into the local electricity grid and tractor-trailer-sized test racks of computers — rather than directly powering the roughly 5,000 servers at Intel’s facility — the company said it hopes solar can eventually boost the data center’s power supply during times of peak demand.
The containers could also lead to solar-powered servers on a larger scale. As Data Center Knowledge explains, solar has made few inroads with data centers because “the large amounts of energy required to power the servers and cooling equipment in modern mission-critical facilities” would demand massive, expensive PV installations. Containers present the option of lower-cost modular systems.
Intel’s new $200,000 project, installed above a parking lot, comes as just the latest trial in the company’s ongoing search for ways to conserve energy and secure more stable sources of power. Intel has placed its chips, so to speak, on going off-grid — and off oil. It installed an $800,000, 100-kilowatt photovoltaic system at its Hillsboro, Ore., campus last month, and the chipmaker’s investment arm, Intel Capital, has taken a shine to cleantech startups with aggressive timelines.
In a time when researchers expect more than 70 percent of U.S. enterprise data centers to face “tangible disruptions related to energy consumption,” rising costs, and growing area needs in less than two years, Intel is hardly the only tech company wrestling with this. Google (s GOOG) has been looking at solar thermal, wind, geothermal and even wave power. For both companies, the clock is ticking.