HP labs designs data centre fuelled by manure

Research demonstrates ability to create a sustainable IT ecosystem using dairy farm waste

HP recently presented new research from HP Labs, the company’s central research arm, showing how the manure output of cows and the heat output of data centres can be combined to create an economically and environmentally sustainable operation.

In a research paper the HP researchers explain how a farm of 10,000 dairy cows could fulfil the power requirements of a 1-megawatt (MW) data centre – the equivalent of a medium-sized data centre– with power left over to support other needs on the farm.

In this process, the heat generated by the data centre can be used to increase the efficiency of the anaerobic digestion of animal waste. This results in the production of methane, which can be used to generate power for the data centre. This symbiotic relationship allows the waste problems faced by dairy farms and the energy demands of the modern data centre to be addressed in a sustainable manner.

Dairy farms and data centres may appear to be unexpected partners; however, HP Labs has shown that the specific needs and challenges of both can be aligned to create a sustainable life cycle, using technologies readily available today.

HP is working to transform the way in which businesses and societies organize and operate by changing the way energy is consumed and produced, thereby creating more sustainable ecosystems. HP Labs is committed to designing data centres that are substantially more efficient and use local, renewable energy resources.

“The idea of using animal waste to generate energy has been around for centuries, with manure being used every day in remote villages to generate heat for cooking. The new idea that we are presenting in this research is to create a symbiotic relationship between farms and the IT ecosystem that can benefit the farm, the data centre and the environment”

Tom Christian, principal research scientist, Sustainable IT Ecosystem Lab, HP