The Sun Shines Green in Denver
By: Dean Nelson
These days eBay employees can be found eating lunch outside, wearing sunglasses, and discussing sunscreen options. Summer has definitely arrived.
But as solar rays heat up, we’re benefitting in more than just morale. The sun shines straight to our bottom line, by lowering our electricity bills. This year is the first full summer since we installed a solar array at our small data center in Denver, Colorado. Thanks to 245 days of sun per year and tax rebates and incentives, our payback is a cool 3.5 years for this 100kW investment. And while we selected solar panels that allow some generation with up to 2 inches of snow (important in Colorado), we’re excited that with warmer weather we’re generating almost three times as much electricity, sometimes 104kW per hour!
This renewable energy project is a small piece of our overall energy strategy for eBay’s data centers, which power the over260 million live listings used by our 96 million active users. As the leader for our Data Center Strategy, Architecture and Operations, my team focuses on ensuring the site stays up 24x7xForever. I also pay those ever increasing electricity bills. So energy efficiency is equally important. Since data centers account for over 50 percent of our company’s power usage, even small gains in efficiency add up.
In May 2010, when we began installing these solar panels, we had already achieved a 55 percent decrease in watts per listing on eBay AND were unveiling our state-of-the-art Topaz data center. In October, my team celebrated LEED® Gold certification, a nod to Topaz’s many efficient and green features.
The Denver solar investment is one more example of eBay’s commitment to renewable energy. Even though our Denver renewable energy generation is small-scale, with our positive return on investment and lower carbon footprint, it is the right thing to do both economically and ecologically. With the cost of wind and solar energy expected to decrease in 2011, we are excited that renewable energy is increasingly affordable and scalable. And thanks to a 25-year warranty on our solar panels, we’re looking forward to benefitting from Denver’s sunny days for years to come.
To give you a closer look at the project, here’s a video of my visit to the Denver data center with even more details on the solar array and its impact!