Examining Data Center Energy Consumption and Power Sources

Posted by Thane Moore on August 31, 2023

Data centers consume a lot of power — 10 to 50 times more energy per floor space than a typical commercial office building. The largest hyperscale data centers in the world can use as much energy as 80,000 US households. Given the increasingly catastrophic effects of climate change, governments, residents, regulatory agencies, and nonprofit organizations are concerned about the impact of data centers on the environment. In light of that, operators are taking steps to reduce power consumption and improve data center sustainability.

These efforts come at a time when demand for data center resources is skyrocketing. On Sept. 9, 2016, we entered the “Zettabyte Era,” with global Internet traffic reaching a trillion gigabytes. Traffic is expected to exceed 150 billion gigabytes per month in 2023. The average household has 22 connected devices, and mobile devices generate 92.6 percent of traffic. Video streaming accounts for 82 percent of traffic.

Data center operators must consider these demands when developing power management strategies. It’s also important to understand how power is consumed and what climate-friendly power sources are available.

Data Center Power Usage

Industry experts use mathematical models to estimate data center consumption. One authoritative study estimated that data centers accounted for as much as 1.5 percent of global energy use in 2010, and extrapolations predicted that power consumption would skyrocket throughout the decade in line with exponential growth in internet traffic and increased adoption of network-connected devices. That didn’t happen. Data center power consumption has grown slightly since 2010, but not by much. Most estimates still have the number below 2%. Improvements in the energy efficiency of IT equipment and the adoption of alternative energy sources, coupled with server virtualization and cloud migration, caused power consumption to remain relatively constant.

Data Center Power Consumption Per Rack

The average power consumption per data center rack has increased to about 7kW, with almost two-thirds seeing peak demands of about 16kW. The cost to power one rack can be as much as $30,000 per year. 

With the proliferation of AI technology, the associated adoption of power-hungry GPUs, and the evolution of the IoT, HPC, and 5G industries, there is little question that data center power consumption per rack and overall will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. It’s more important than ever to track performance metrics and identify sources of inefficiency. It all starts with understanding how much power the various elements of the IT infrastructure consume.

We’ll break down the components of a data center contributing most to overall energy consumption below:


When you think of data centers, servers and server racks typically come to mind. More powerful servers consume more electricity, but today’s servers are generally more efficient than previous generations. The primary source of inefficiency is underutilization, with most servers running at 50 percent capacity or less. Idle servers also waste a significant amount of electricity.

Cooling and Airflow

With the proliferation of high-performance computing (HPC), servers are more powerful, and racks are denser than ever before. On average, data centers use around 40% of their total energy on cooling. Cooling efficiency is important to limit energy expenses and meet overall sustainability goals. 

Contact the Experts


Advancements in storage technology have limited its energy expense within the data center. The number of storage devices needed has decreased as device-level storage capacity has increased. Additionally, solid-state drives use less power than hard-disk drives.


Calculating network power consumption has been complicated by the increasing use of wireless networks. However, the energy consumed by routers, switches, and bridges can be measured easily and accounts for a meaningful chunk of data center power consumption. Efficiencies can be gained by using fewer, higher-capacity devices.

Miscellaneous Infrastructure

Aside from these four buckets, a lot of miscellaneous infrastructure within the data center uses power. It’s important to keep tabs on everything to maximize power usage efficiency. For example, power distribution systems and UPSs should be investigated as sources of power loss.

Data Center Power Sources

Most data centers use the traditional electric grid for power. The only issue is the electric grid is finite. Utility providers in major markets such as Northern Virginia and Silicon Valley have voiced concerns about available capacity and, in some cases, halted data center development until they can improve infrastructure. 

As a result, many large and hyperscale data centers are experimenting with alternative power sources. These options promise to relieve the strain on the grid, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize data center outages. In fact, Amazon Meta, Microsoft, and Google are the largest buyers of corporate green energy power purchase agreements (PPAs) as they strive to meet net-zero carbon emission goals within the decade.

Wind and Solar

Wind and solar energy are becoming more widely available. Hyperscalers such as Meta and Google are even investing in solar farms to produce their own renewable energy, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offers incentives for such projects. The IRA also includes tax credits for batteries that can store renewable energy.


Hydrogen accounts for about three-fourths of the known universe, but most is contained in other compounds. Extracting it requires energy and precious metals. Still, hydrogen fuel cells and gas turbines hold promise for a greener energy future.


Geothermal energy uses heat from within the earth to create steam to generate electricity. The U.S. is the world leader in geothermal energy production, but one-fourth of Europe could tap this power source. 


Nuclear energy is an emerging data center industry trend. It’s a reliable, carbon-free source of power. Data centers can harness this power by locating near an existing nuclear power plant or adopting emerging small modular reactor (SMR) technologies.

How the Enconnex InfiniRack Can Help

With millions of possible configurations and excellent load ratings of 4,000 lb static and 3,000 lb rolling/dynamic, the Enconnex InfiniRack data center cabinet was designed to adapt to the needs of nearly any data center and is ready to handle ever-growing power densities. Its structural design also maximizes airflow and available useable space. Let us customize an InfiniRack for your data center. The options are virtually limitless. Get in touch today.

Upgrade Today

Posted by Thane Moore on August 31, 2023

Thane Moore is the Senior Director of Sales Operations & Logistics for Enconnex and has 20 years of experience in the IT infrastructure manufacturing space working for companies such as Emerson and Vertiv.

Learn more about Enconnex

Get to know Enconnex with a customized fit-out