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Cisco is Picking up Speed with Solar

Did you know that every hour the sun beams onto Earth more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year? Or that solar energy produces little to no greenhouse gasses? Clearly, solar power has the potential to reduce our reliance on other forms of energy, but how do we harness it?

Cisco is taking up the challenge in a number of ways:

1. We recently installed a 264-kilowatt roof-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system at our data center in Richardson, Texas. (Solar PV systems convert sunlight into electricity and can be used to power just about anything that uses electricity from homes and businesses to cars and of course, IT equipment!). This particular system will produce approximately 370,000 kilowatt hours annually, equivalent to the annual electricity use of 30 U.S. homes.

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The Impact of Distributed Generation

Distributed generation is getting increasing attention for impact on the electric utility industry.  DG has been the subject of a number of high profile articles in Business Week, the Wall St. Journal and several online business and industry news sites.  The Business Week article was particularly provocative, leading with the title, “Why the U.S. Power Grid’s Days Are Numbered“.

Residential DG, primarily solar, remains relatively sparse in the U.S. compared to Europe, especially Germany.  Commercial/Industrial DG is getting greater penetration with large initiatives such as Walmart installing solar on the top of every store, and low-priced natural gas leading industrial customers to generate their own power.  Although circumstances differ, the September 17, 2013, WSJ article, “In Post-Tsunami Japan, Homeowners Pull Away From Grid”, describes how Japanese homeowners could foreshadow even more disruption.  While residential fuel cells are not presently economical, higher volume production and deployment in Japan could certainly change that.  Low cost fuel cells could enable every customer with natural gas service to make the economic analysis about when or whether it’s worth turning to self generation. Read More »

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Here Comes the Sun

November 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm PST

When I was a kid, one of my neighbors had a solar radiometer.  It’s a glass bulb about the size of a baseball, with diamond-shaped panels connected to a spindle.   The panels, black on one side and silver on the other, would turn on the spindle when exposed to light.

I enjoyed experimenting with the gizmo, edging it in and out of the sunbeam that shone through a window and onto their kitchen table.  How close to the light did the radiometer need to be for the panels to move? What if I shaded it with a piece of cardboard?  How fast would the spindle turn if I put the radiometer fully in the light? Read More »

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Welcoming a New Family Member

September 13, 2011 at 10:00 am PST

Care for a candy cigar?

After months of anticipation and countless hours spent on the delivery, I’m happy to announce a new member to Cisco’s family.  Our newest Data Center has come into the world in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It’s 18,500 sq. ft. (1,719 sq. m.) in size and has 2.88 MW of capacity.  The parents are tired but otherwise doing fine.

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Cloudy With a Chance of Data Center Savings

June 29, 2011 at 10:00 am PST

Ah, weather – one of life’s multi-purpose tools.  Conversation filler (“Quite the weather we’re having.”), alleged indicator of world’s end and source of inspiration for comic book writers to empower heroes and villains alike.

Weather can also be a Data Center’s best friend.  Solar energy can be harvested to help generate power, for instance, such as is happening at Cisco’s Data Center in Allen, Texas.  (Look for the 100 kW solar array on the right side of the Data Center’s roof.)  Wind energy as well.  Rainwater can even be collected for cooling system usage or to irrigate landscaping.

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