Innovation That Matters

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Solar data: a new system powers data centres cleanly

Computing & Tech

The solar-powered system improves energy efficiency and can drive down the cost of power

Spotted: This is the age of big data. But processing all of this information uses a lot of energy, with data centres and data transmission networks responsible for one per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that data centre energy efficiency is improving rapidly.

One such improvement is a first-of-its-kind modular energy platform produced by Exowatt, which is designed to power energy-intensive data centres using solar power. The system consists of a heat collector, a heat battery, and a heat engine. Uniquely, Exowatt’s system stores solar energy as heat in a thermal battery, rather than as electricity in an electrochemical battery.

Exowatt’s approach costs a fraction of traditional solar battery storage and does not require any supply chain dependency on scarce rare earth materials. It is also able to dispatch electricity 24 hours a day, regardless of weather conditions. The modules are designed to fit the space of a standard 40-foot shipping container and can be easily scaled up or down, depending on requirements.

Exowatt recently completed a $20 million (around €18.4 million) seed round led by a16z, Atomic, and Sam Altman. The money will be used to help Exowatt begin deploying its technology to data centres later this year. The company expects to eventually offer electricity for as low as $0.01 per kilowatt-hour, which will make it cheaper than both fossil fuels and other renewable energy alternatives.

Powering data centres cleanly is the goal of innovations such as an algorithm that routes graphics tasks to renewably powered data centres and a new type of computer chip that could improve the efficiency of AI.

Written By: Lisa Magloff


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