ComEd Offers Incentives to Lower Power Use

Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), the utility company serving the Chicago area, has put in place financial incentives to help data center operators optimize power consumption.

ComEd serves about 3.8 million customers in northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. That includes 60 separate data centers.

According to the utility, running a 24/7 data center places far more of a load on the electrical grid than a few homes running air conditioners. In fact, the power usage can equal up to 100 to 200 times that of a local business. As an incentive to reduce this load, ComEd said it would provide incentives of up to 7 cents per kWH saved, up to 100 percent of the incremental costs and 50 percent of the total cost of qualifying projects.

A ComEd analysis suggests that the top four energy hogs within a data center are the chiller (33 percent of all power used), IT equipment (30 percent), the UPS (18 percent), and the computer room A/C unit, or CRAC (9 percent). ComEd plans on working with data-center operators to install new energy-efficient equipment, including variable speed drives for existing chillers, HVAC fans and pumps and packaged units, as well as pump and air compressor motors. Incentives for new, energy-efficient water- and air-cooled chillers are also available.

“The reliance on digital technology to support virtually everything we do is increasing on an almost daily basis and businesses count on uninterrupted power to support all of that technology,” said Val Jensen, ComEd’s senior vice president of Customer Operations for ComEd, in a statement. “ComEd’s reliability performance is already in the top third nationally and is on target to become even stronger due to investments we are making under the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA), so we offer data center customers the reliability they need and technical and financial support to run an energy efficient operation.”

What To Do

Here’s how it works: for custom projects, ComEd encourages data-center operators to contact them before beginning construction, in order to discuss potential assistance and receive the required pre-approvals and inspections. For existing facilities, ComEd also offers an on-site assessment. A ComEd energy engineer will visit the facility and spend approximately two hours identifying energy-efficiency opportunities. Within two weeks, the operator will receive a letter detailing recommended energy-efficiency projects. For each, ComEd will include the estimated energy savings, cost savings, project cost, potential incentives and simple payback.

Latisys, a local data center operator, was an early participant in the project. “”The incentive from ComEd enabled us to implement hot aisle and cold aisle containment systems in our Tier III data center,” Nabon Marsico, director of data center operations for the company, wrote in a statement. “This is already translating to significant savings while allowing us to provide more concentrated and precise cooling for our hosting and co-location customers.”


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