Energy-Information Nexus

Motivation

The Energy Information Nexus (EIN) is a proposed (NSF) industry-university cooperative research center that helps companies in the cloud service sector reduce bottlenecks to growth, and develop new technological pathways to low-emission power. The following 7-minute video describes the motivation, vision, and direction of the proposed consortium. For more information, please register to attend our Interactive Webinar: Wednesday August 12 at 1:00 PM Eastern Time. For other information please also see the links above, and contacts at the bottom of this page.  Thanks for visiting!

This additional video (from Microsoft) describes Microsoft’s current efforts to pilot and test some of the ideas described above.

Why a new approach is needed

Data centers represent one of the largest and growing aggregate consumers of electrical power in the United States, with a projected growth rate of 12% per year.  Cloud service companies – and providers of their physical infrastructure – are in a constant struggle to satisfy this growing demand, while also maintaining reliability, reducing cost, meeting carbon footprint and energy sustainability targets, and expanding globally into areas with less developed or reliable energy infrastructure.

Vision

This consortium envisions a new generation of data centers that embed power generation and storage as inherent components of cloud infrastructure.  These new data centers would incorporate batteries, fuel cells, d.c. power networks, and other advanced energy technologies at the rack or pod level, completely changing the way energy and computing are connected. This expanded scope of data center design opens up exciting new possibilities, including freedom to grow independent of local availability of grid power and more direct control over carbon footprint. Other benefits include higher reliability, resilience to grid disruption, use of waste heat from power production to drive cooling, and synergistic two-way grid interactions. This approach provides a technological pathway to 100% carbon-free power that can begin today.

Role of the consortium

The EIN seeks to support activities and people that will facilitate vision described above.  These include:

  • Pre-competitive research that accelerates development of embedded energy technology with relevance to data centers
  • Techno-economic analyses and forecasting that explores new approaches to data center energy architecture
  • Leveraged R&D by pooling of resources and engagement of academic, state, and national labs
  • Interdisciplinary training of students who have a broad understanding of both information and energy technology, and how they can be co-optimized to achieve advances in data center and grid operation
  • Creating a forum for exchanging thought leadership, developing standards, and forging new industrial and academic partnerships.

For more details about these activities, and the academic participants in the consortium, please consult the links at the top of this page.

Outreach and contact information

If you find the ideas presented here to be interesting, and want to know more about the consortium and how your organization can participate, please contact us:

Stuart Adler
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Washington
stuadler@uw.edu
(206) 543-2131

Todd A. Cleland
Director, Corporate Relations
University of Washington
tcleland@uw.edu
(206) 543-9852

Please consider attending the first planning meeting for the consortium. We need your ideas, input, and support to make it happen!