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Sun Rebates Courtesy of California Utility

Utilities have long offered residential customers incentives to buy and use fewer power-hungry appliances, such as refrigerators and dishwashers.

Now server buyers can get a similar deal in California from Pacific Gas & Electric.

It won't be quite as simple as sending in a coupon and receipt, but for the first time, IT managers will be able to get a rebate when they upgrade to a Sun Fire T1000 or T2000 servers from Sun Microsystems.

The servers are based on Sun's  unique, multi-core UltraSparc T1 processor with CoolThreads released last year.

The rebates will be from $700 to $1,000 depending on the server a company upgrades from. The entry-level price for a T1000 is $3,995, so the low end of the rebate still represents a significant percentage of the purchase price.

"We see this as a big endorsement from PG&E of our strategy," Dave Douglas, Sun's vice president of eco-responsibility, told internetnews.com.

"It's the first time anything like this has been done for a server."

Douglas said for now the rebate process involves the customer calling PG&E, which has to confirm the system being upgraded before a rebate can be given.

"We've talked to quite a few other utilities and they've been waiting to see how this comes out. Credit to PG&E they've put their money where their mouth is."

PG&E used an independent firm to analyze energy use and measure the potential savings at three different customer sites before deciding to proceed with the rebate program, according to Douglas.

One customer purchased Sun Fire T2000 servers to install in their 800 square foot data center. Sun said their investment resulted in a savings of 6,413 kWh/year or $770/year per server in savings.

This calculation resulted in a PG&E Non Residential Retrofit Program incentive of $980 per server.

"PG&E is committed to providing a comprehensive array of energy-efficiency offerings to data-center operators, and we're pleased to add rebates for efficient computing equipment to our portfolio," said Helen Burt, senior vice president and chief customer officer at PG&E, in a statement.

Energy and cooling costs in the data center have grown significantly in the past several years.

HP engineering research released in May estimated that for every dollar of IT spent, a company can expect to spend the same or more to power and cool it.

As companies add more performance, they can expect those costs to continue to rise.

A Gartner poll last year revealed that more than 69 percent of data centers are power, cooling and space constrained.

Sun estimates the problem's only gotten worse since then, with servers consuming more power and energy costs soaring as much as 30 percent.