Wisconsin Embedded Data Center Market Characterization

Lester Shen, Christopher Plum — Feb 2018

Why This Research Is Needed

Small embedded data centers are one of the fastest growing end uses of electrical energy in commercial buildings and are estimated to account for about 2% of the total electricity use in the U.S. By various accounts, as much as one third of this usage is unnecessary, but this has not been addressed by utility programs or the majority of device manufacturers. A major barrier in taking advantage of the energy savings opportunities available to embedded data centers (EDCs) is the difficulty in effectively reaching out to a diverse and dispersed customer base. Quantifying the energy impact of EDCs in Wisconsin and better characterizing their needs could yield significant energy savings for Focus on Energy’s non-residential programs, like the Business Incentive Program, Agriculture, Schools, Government, and even Design Assistance. Optimized measure offerings and technical assistance can help customers and trades make important decisions for this market segment.

Project Process and Expected Outcomes

This Seventhwave-led project will aid Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program, in enhancing existing programs through identifying program offerings and marketing channels for embedded data centers. 

This characterization study will answer the following questions:

  • What are the most typical configurations, management, and size of EDCs in Wisconsin?
  • How much potential is there for energy savings through the Focus on Energy program as applied to EDCs, and where does that potential lie? How do those areas differ from large data centers?
  • What are the best outreach channels for reaching and eventually impacting these facilities?
  • What program design practices are the best fit to drive program impact in Wisconsin? 

datacenter-(2).pngThe following tasks are being performed:

  • Literature Review
  • Stakeholder Survey
  • Savings quantification
  • Investigation of new market channels
  • Follow-up field work

These tasks will describe typical Wisconsin EDCs, establish technology best practices, establish operation best practices, establish expected savings from EDC measures and recommend program improvements.

The project was funded by the Environmental & Economic Research and Development (EERD) Program under Focus on Energy, the Wisconsin statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program funded by Wisconsin ratepayers.

Project Info

June 2017 to May 2018


  • Characterize the embedded data centers (EDCs) currently in use by Wisconsin customers in the commercial and institutional markets.
  • Investigate the potential for improved energy efficiency in the data centers.
  • Identify new channels for achieving successful implementation by engaging IT staff (as opposed to traditional methods targeting facility managers or business managers).
  • Establish best practices for incorporating specific offerings in existing business programs.

Non-Energy Benefits

  • This project will support improved energy savings for the Focus on Energy's non-residential programs.
  • Optimization of offerings and technical assistance will also help customers and trades with decision-making related to this segment of the market.  

Utility Implementation

This project will work with Focus on Energy to assist and encourage program development based on findings.

Project Partners

Seventhwave (project lead)

Focus on Energy