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Intel eyes sun-powered data centers

Keeping the solar dream alive

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Despite taking some major financial knocks in recent months, Intel is pushing ahead with its investments in solar technology.

Intel: 'Carry on my wayward Sun'

Chipzilla is now testing the potential of using solar energy to help power data centers, unveiling a new experimental photovoltaic installation this weekend in New Mexico.

The sun trap was built in a parking lot north of Intel's Rio Rancho manufacturing plant that primarily develops flash memory chips as well as its Celeron and Pentium lines.

Although the system can only power a tiny fraction of the 5,000-some servers in the plant's six data centers, Intel hopes the array will help it learn to make bigger arrays viable to its business.

The installation consists of 64 solar panels that can generate about 10 kilowatts of electricity. That's enough to power four houses, according to Intel, but a drop in the bucket for what is needed in most large data centers.

But the diminutive scale could augment the power needs of small businesses or containerized data centers.

One experiment Intel plans is the effectiveness of solar energy in cutting energy costs during the summertime when cooling costs are at their peak — and not coincidentally a convenient time to harness the power of the Sun.

Intel said it has invested about $200,000 in the solar array. At current energy costs, the system could pay for itself in 15 to 20 years, the company said.

The company has already laid down some significant cash on solar energy investments. Last October, Intel's investment arm gave $20m to fund the Chinese solar energy systems provider Trony Solar Holdings.

"The world economy is in a very difficult position, but innovation is the way to help the companies out of financial crisis," said Cadol Cheung, managing director of Intel Capital in Asia Pacific said at the time.

Intel said it hopes to eventually use solar arrays in their plants and data centers across the US. ®

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