The company's new Data Center Efficiency program, currently available in Minnesota and Colorado, will offer significant incentives to cutting the energy drawn by servers, storage and cooling.
Xcel will pay for up to 75 percent of the cost of a company's data center energy efficiency study, and will refund up to $400 per kilowatt saved by the data center energy efficiency projects implemented by a firm.
"Whether managers are interested in demonstrating green business practices or simply want to save money on energy bills, efficiency is the best place to start," said Xcel Energy program manager Ann Garbow. "Our studies can help identify energy saving opportunities in data center equipment, design and operational choices.”
Xcel estimates that most data centers currently average a power usage effectiveness ratio (PUE) of 2 -- for every $1 spent on IT, an additional 50 cents is spent on energy costs, whether to power the hardware or providing lighting and cooling for the data center itself. Some top-of-the-line data centers, notably those owned by Google and Microsoft, have achieved PUEs of below 1.2, and both companies say they'll be able to reach a PUE of 1.12 in the near future.
Among the methods that Xcel suggests IT managers should use to reduce the energy used by their data centers are adopting highly efficient servers, virtualization of servers, highly efficient cooling and lighting, humidity controls, and efficient power supplies.
Xcel Energy will fund a portion of the energy efficiency study and pay rebates as the projects are finished. In Minnesota, the company will pay for 50 percent of the study and $300 per kilowatt saved; in Colorado Xcel will foot the bill for 75 percent of the study and refund $400 per saved kilowatt. Companies interested in the program can fill out an application at XcelEnergy.com, and a third-party vendor approved by Xcel will conduct an on-site energy evaluation and make recommendations on energy savings, as well as outline a business case for energy-efficiency investments.
The project also applies to new data center projects; those studies will outline best practices for building a new facility so that companies can avoid having to undertake a green IT retrofit in the future.
Other electric utilities are also offering incentives to cut data center energy use; last year, Pacific Gas & Electric handed out a $1.4 million check to NetApp for its green data center project.