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NREL Garners Top Sustainability Honor at Data Center Dynamics Awards

International award cements NREL’s status as a world leader in energy-efficient and sustainable data centers

Dec. 14, 2018

Photo of two men at awards ceremony

NREL Computational Science Director Steve Hammond (left) and Winthrop Engineering Business Development Director Barry Hennessy at the December 6 DCD Global Awards gala in London. Winthrop was the corporate sponsor of the DCD Eco-Sustainability award won by NREL this year. Photo courtesy of DCD

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has won the prestigious 2018 Data Center Dynamics (DCD) Data Center Eco-Sustainability Award, bolstering the lab’s status as a world leader in data center efficiency and sustainability.

Referred to as the 'Oscars' of the data center industry, the annual DCD Global Awards recognize the industry’s top data center projects and people. An independent panel of data center experts selected finalists from hundreds of entries from organizations across the globe. This year’s winners—among them NREL Computational Science Director Steve Hammond—received their trophies at a gala held December 6 in London.

The Data Center Eco-Sustainability Award recognizes innovative and pioneering approaches to sustainability through the design or major retrofit of a data center facility. NREL worked in partnership with SmithGroup LLC and Johnson Controls Inc. to earn this year’s award. Other finalists for this category included Facebook and Digital Reality.

NREL’s win confirms its claim that the lab’s high-performance computing data center is the most energy-efficient in the world. NREL built the data center in collaboration with the design and engineering firm SmithGroup LLC at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). NREL’s vision was to create a showcase facility for data center sustainability that demonstrates best practices in energy efficiency, waste heat capture, and use of component-level warm-water liquid cooling. The data center demonstrates an innovative, “chips-to-bricks” holistic approach to data center efficiency, a world-leading annualized average power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.036, and pioneering work in component-level liquid cooling, which serves as an exemplar for the community.

“We have demonstrated for the entire industry that this approach results in significant energy savings—and that it can be done safely, reliably, and without risk,” Hammond said. “NREL committed to liquid cooling before liquid-cooled systems could be purchased. Liquid cooling is now the norm in HPC systems—and NREL led the way.”

The data center’s extreme energy efficiency is complemented by its approach to water efficiency. NREL recently collaborated with Johnson Controls Inc. and Sandia National Laboratories to install a Johnson Controls thermosyphon dry cooler to reduce data center water use. The thermosyphon enabled the NREL data center to cut water use in half without compromising energy efficiency. This effort was recognized in October with a 2018 Federal Energy and Water Management Award.

What’s more, NREL’s HPC data center aims to broadly share its demonstration of data center energy efficiency best practices. The data center hosts an online, real-time dashboard that displays the facility's instantaneous PUE calculated from usage of the IT equipment and data center infrastructure.

Learn more about NREL’s high-performance computing data center.