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Las Vegas: Home to Carrot Top and the ‘world’s greenest’ data center?

Initially, I was excited to see that someone else sees Las Vegas as the green data center hotspot it should be. Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge reported Friday that a company called pair Networks is building a new data center in Las Vegas that runs entirely off the grid thanks to natural gas, cogeneration and a rooftop solar array.

I’ve suggested in the past (albeit somewhat selfishly because I live there) that Las Vegas is an ideal spot to build new green data centers. We have lots of space and cheap real estate; we’re close to California; and, most importantly,we have a very abundant supply of sun. Pair Networks seems to get this, kind of.

Pair calls the new data center “the world’s greenest web site hosting facility” and says that:

When all phases of the facility are constructed, the data centers will have the capacity to house over 20,000 Web site hosting servers, and host millions of Web sites, all on less than 2.5 acres of desert outside of Las Vegas, NV.

It gives a litany of reasons for staking its claim as the world’s greenest data center, but it’s only installing a 100 kWh solar array, which isn’t big at all, and suggests solar will be used primarily for non-computing needs. In fact, most solar energy in data centers goes toward lighting and other office-related energy. By way of comparison, the average house uses about 100 kWh per day.

Rating how green data centers are can be a bit misleading. The widely accepted PUE measure, for example, measures how much of a facility’s power consumption goes toward actual computing, as opposed to getting lost in transit or being used for cooling. As Miller explains in his post, a data center that receives a 1.0 PUE score is considered to have an optimal efficiency, although sub-1.0 is theoretically possible. In that regard, pair Networks’ certainly is efficient, but is it green? Is it clean?

That’s debatable. Natural gas might burn cleaner than coal, but extracting it is arguably an environmentally unfriendly process, and natural gas is still a fossil fuel — it releases considerable carbon emissions. If you want truly clean data centers, look at some of the projects in Iceland that are running entirely off geothermal and hydropower, which are pretty much carbon-emission free. It seems only logical that if you’re talking about green or clean in Las Vegas, you’d be talking about solar energy — and lots of it.

Las Vegas does have a handful of data centers already, including the impressive SuperNAP, but I haven’t heard a whole lot about them relying heavily on solar power or clean power. It doesn’t look as if pair Networks is either, but attempting to be the “world’s greenest” is a start. If it replaces that gas with more solar energy, it’ll really be onto something.

7 Responses to “Las Vegas: Home to Carrot Top and the ‘world’s greenest’ data center?”

  1. Correction – the average house does not use 100kWh a day – it is much less – on the order of 20kWh a day… Probably higher in Vegas, but not that much

  2. I’ve been a Pair customer for years. Pittsburgh based, I’ve always assumed they were just a big server farm near the city. Nice piece about their new server facility in Las Vegas.

  3. ravedog

    I was going to complain that the author (who lives in Vegas) didn’t know where he gets his power. I assumed that the dam provided our power. How wrong I was. It seems that our power provider, NV Energy, uses everything BUT the dam, including getting it from out of state: “70 percent comes from natural gas-fired generating units.” Thanks for the article… made me do a little research.

    • Derrick Harris

      I think we get about 25% of the dam’s power, which is a far sight more than the 4% of the water we get from the Colorado River.