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IBM`s Solar Servers: Energy Efficiency for Datacenters
By: Katie Gatto
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    2008-09-24

    Table of Contents:
  • IBM`s Solar Servers: Energy Efficiency for Datacenters
  • A Hot Issue
  • Deeper Environmental Issues
  • Big Green Goals

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    IBM`s Solar Servers: Energy Efficiency for Datacenters - Deeper Environmental Issues


    (Page 3 of 4 )

    This particular project is environmentally friendly in more than one way. The solar panels for this project were made, in part at least, by using recycled silicone wafers. The chips to be recycled were both used wafers that were now too worn to use on the wafers that were rejected by the initial manufacturing process. The wafer's first use by IBM was as monitor wafer, which is used to calibrate the machinery while computer chips are made.

    It is estimated that, on average, about three million of these wafers are sent to the landfills every year by chip manufacturing facilities around the world, or 3.3 percent of the estimated 250,000 silicone wafers that are started each and every day.

    IBM also has a strong business interest in seeing solar technology become a real option for businesses all around the world. They hold at least 10 major patents that are related to the creation of photovoltaic cells and solar panels, including United States patent number 20060032530, also known as "solution processed pentacone accepter heterojuncions in diodes, photodiodes and photovoltaic cells and method of making same."

    The IBM System X3650 servers come with either a dual-core or quad-core Intel Xenon processor, and up to six terabits of storage per unit. This model was chosen because it uses IBM systems director Active Energy Manager for X86, which helps to manage the power usage more efficiently and therefore reduce the amount of power that the solar panels were required to put towards each of the individual servers. The energy manager allows remote access to information about each unit's energy consumption and heat, and allows an administrator to set caps.

    IBM is not content to simply rest on their laurels. The company is currently taking an interest in multiple ways of harnessing the power of the sun. In addition to maximizing the current solar technology, IBM has research teams rumored to be working on thin film photovoltaic cells, other solar concentrating devices and even some solar collecting nano structures that would involve semiconductor quantum dots and nano wires, though no plans to implement any of these new possibilities have been announced as of yet.

    Solar cells were first developed on a commercial level by Bell Labs in 1953 by a researcher named Gerald Pearson, though the concept of a photovoltaic cell is considered to be much older. It was originally credited to a researcher named William Grylls Adams in 1876. In the late 1950s the technology found its first home in space, as a backup energy source aboard the Vanguard I satellite.

    Solar cells were used in place of regular batteries to keep devices powered longer, and help missions stay in contact with ground control stations in the 1970s. Solar cells also found homes powering warning lights on oil rigs, railroad crossings and even light houses. Interest in this clean energy has recently been renewed by the oil crunch and global warming issues.

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