Climate Corps 2010: Reaching Beyond the 'Low-Hanging Fruit'

When I originally set out to spend the summer as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at eBay Inc., I anticipated spending my 10-week fellowship focused on making the business case for energy efficiency in the company’s data centers.  On my first day at eBay headquarters, I realized I had been mistaken. The greatest energy efficiency gains would actually not be in the data centers, but found elsewhere.

Near the start of my fellowship, eBay Inc. unveiled a new data center named Project Topaz that was 30 percent more efficient than any other data center in the company’s portfolio. In “geek speak,” it has a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.4 thanks to water-side economization, in-row cooling and 400V power distribution. 

As a Climate Corps fellow who has been trained on data center efficiency measures aimed at enabling companies to pick low-hanging fruit and cut costs on wasted energy, it has been nearly impossible to make any recommendations for a facility that is already so advanced in its green initiatives.

Obviously I needed to refocus the scope of my project.

Thankfully, my supervisor introduced me to colleagues throughout the organization in workplace resources, procurement, IT and corporate communications.  Considering over 2,400 of eBay Inc.’s employees are members of the Green Team, I was not surprised by the contagious enthusiasm for sustainability. 

Academic studies on energy efficiency in California show that while commercial consumption has grown, efficiency has remained the same. Despite this marketplace reality, I was not surprised to hear that as of May 2010, the number of watts per listing on eBay had declined 55 percent since the second quarter of 2008. Members of the Green Team are efficiency experts in a company that has championed sustainability in both its e-commerce business as well as its own operational footprint. Atop the building I’ve been sitting in this summer, stands the largest commercial solar installation in San Jose. Next to it is a 500kW installation of Bloom Energy boxes that together account for more than 30 percent of the campus’s energy needs.

All of these factors do, however, make my 10-week treasure hunt for energy efficiency that much more difficult.