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Running Web Servers on Renewable Energy

Last summer, I wrote about my experience installing four solar panels and an electric vehicle charger on my son’s house in Seattle. A couple of months ago, I wrote an update about how well it’s working and how it’s an awesome first step towards a green power future.

But now, a new twist has emerged: My son’s house isn’t the only green house in the neighbourhood. And the next house in the block is also generating energy with solar panels. Even more surprising: In a building in downtown Seattle, where almost all of the electricity is generated with renewable energy, there’s enough electricity to run the servers and support the computing needs of a large commercial web hosting company with hundreds of servers, spread across multiple racks and racks of servers.

Can Running Web Servers on Renewable Energy Really Happen?

It’s been a while since the original story about my experience with installing the solar panels. I’ve recently started working with Exponent Technologies (Expedio) to install similar solar panel systems for a co-working community I’m working with here in Seattle.

They’ve started installing similar solar power systems for offices across the nation. They’re converting light to energy with several dozen solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, each rooftop of which generates hundreds of watts of electricity, enough for a Web server.

As I get to know Exponent Technologies more, I learn that the company already has an awesome relationship with CleanComputers. CleanComputers runs a number of servers and web hosting sites in one building, including Yelp.com, LiveJournal, Google Docs and Batch.com. Exponent Technologies installed a bunch of rooftop solar panels, but they also installed four new servers in their building using renewable energy.

This is an incredible feat. And it’s a huge step toward making renewable energy technology viable for running Web servers. This is no longer a crazy idea.

Renewable Energy Technology a Reality Today

When looking browsing through some of the options for the Web Design Liverpool has on offer, perhaps the last thing on your mind is the type of energy used to power the servers that’ll be hosting your web applications. However, as an avid PC gamer, my mind naturally goes to amazing, futuristic technologies like self-driving cars and autonomous drones. But the future looks much more likely to be filled with high-speed networking and storage arrays that are powered by sustainable energy sources.

I couldn’t believe it when I learned that each of these four systems on my son’s roof alone could support 500 servers or more of clean-energy powered computing power. How much do I need to get a picture of that? Thousands of servers? Thousands of servers run as fast as the bandwidth of the current Internet?

Many of my co-workers think I’m crazy. But I’ve already installed the solar panels. It’s the easiest and most affordable way I know to help make renewable energy technology a reality. I’ve got my first taste of clean energy technology, which works today. How long will it be before I can make it work for web servers? How much energy could we generate?

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