Archive for September, 2009

The Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit is Coming Oct 15th

Monday, September 14th, 2009

That’s right folks, another summit, but oh no, not just any other summit, this is the 2009 SVLG Data Center Energy Efficiency Demonstration Program Summit, or DCEES (Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit). Originally the brain child of Ray Pfiefer, LBNL, and the CEC, the idea is simple: share energy efficiency improvements by end-users from end-users for end-users. Really simple.

As data center owners, operators and customers, we are keenly concerned about downtime of our data centers, so we tend to shy away from making upgrades unless absolutely necessary, even if it means saving money, and in some cases lots of money. And we also tend to de-value the savings estimates from our vendors as having a reduced level of credibility like clothes detergent commercials saying clothes come out cleanest with their product.

So we pull together technology partners and data center end-users to try out a new technology or process and share the results, good or bad, energy and cost savings. And then the end-user writes a brief case study showcasing the results, the results are peer reviewed or audited by a utility for a rebate, and at the summit, the end-user themselves share their experiences with this new process or product and the actual results. Again, it’s simple. And the concept is too. By sharing what we are doing, we collaborate with each other. And thru collaboration comes innovation. And thru innovation we all gain by reducing our energy use and costs. Meanwhile, the end-user that shared that latest trick is already on to the next one while the rest of the industry catches up, together we all improve.

It’s a fantastic way to reduce our costs, grow our economy, reduce our environmental footprints and implement real solutions that work. And knowing what the challenges and benefits of implementation are from our peers, we can proceed with little risk.

We all gain, we all get educated, and we all get better together. Now isn’t that a program we can all stand behind? At this year’s summit we’ll be showcasing dozens of great case studies from various end users and small and large technology companies, technologies we’ve been hearing about and thinking about. Show up at our Summit on October 15th, at our host’s facility, NetApp, in Sunnyvale, CA. It’s an all day event, full of information, presentations by data center end-users, and meet many in the industry to share ideas, collaborate, and work on that next great idea together. Register and see the full agenda at:

See you there!

Canada’s tar sands development tragedy

Monday, September 7th, 2009

I could not hold back from voicing my experience of last year touring the tar sands developments and some of the upgrading operations in Canada near the town of Fort McMurray. This is a brief description of what I saw to in this large carbon sink of Canada and the world.

Having toured around through a great part of the tar sands, I can attest that it is an awful environmental tragedy. The area of development is about the same size as the state of Florida. The largest boreal forest traverses through the tar sands, which is being removed along with very sensitive boggy forested lands to remove the top 150+ feet of the soil. The soil is transported in the largest dump trucks in the world, each carrying about 400 tons of dirt and transporting it over miles of dirt roads to a crushing system, which then conveys it into a large burner which heats the oil using natural gas to about 100 degrees F to get the oil to flow out of the soil. It is estimated that as much as 2/3 of a barrel of oil is used to create one barrel of oil from the tar sands.

Large herds of elk, deer, caribou and populations of moose, bear and many other beautiful wildlife also live, or have lived in this sensitive area. Today, propane bombs surround and regularly explode around multi-acre pools of residual sludge water from the operations in order to keep water fowl and other birds from landing and dying in the oil-laden water.

Immense quantities of water are used in the processing facilities and of what little water is re-released to the rivers, literally two-headed fish are caught by Canada’s First Land’s people who live at the terminus of the rivers. Additionally, these people have incredibly very high rates of many cancers and other illnesses and death rates, all new to these people over the last decade who live off the land in a very remote area. The First Lands people no longer can hunt caribou from their homes due to the caribou’s changing migrations as the tar sands development encroaches on the caribou’s migration paths well established over tens of thousands of year. Instead, the First Lands peoples must now travel for tens of miles on snow mobiles they did not used to own in order to hunt the caribou for their subsistence.

If these ills and crimes are not enough, the sight and smells of the over 120 upgraders and 70 refineries located throughout the tar sands will give anyone a shock. Each with many billowing, thick blue clouds of stench erupting continuously from many, sometimes dozens of tall smoke stacks and alongside smaller gas burning stacks throwing flames that can be seen from tens of miles away in the daytime sky. Also seen from tens of miles away, and smelled for much more are bright yellow piles of sulfur, removed from the “upgrading” operations in order to make the tar suitable to be sent to a refinery. The piles can reach over 15 stories tall, be about 1/4 to half-mile wide and about a 1/2 to one mile long. Each upgrader will often have several of these bright yellow piles, likely to remain forever as there is little market for this much sulfur. To repeat, there are over 120 upgraders in the tar sands area of Canada.

Being that Canada is the largest importer of oil into the US, and the US is the largest user of oil worldwide, the only real way to stop this great tragedy is through immense political pressure on Canada to enforce and improve its environmental regulations of the tar sands area, or to greatly reduce the US and world’s use of fossil fuels, of which the later will be very difficult to achieve before the tar sands area is well developed and consequently, destroyed. It will take all of us conscious effort to reduce our use of natural resources and to ensure that they are extracted and developed in ways that do not pollute our own health and well-being.