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Senate passes bill touting energy-efficient servers

President expected to sign off on law that could draw attention to products that offer "clean tech" solutions.

President Bush is poised to sign into law a bill that urges Americans to buy more energy-efficient computer servers.

The U.S. Senate late on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that proclaims it is "in the best interest of the United States for purchasers of computer servers to give high priority to energy efficiency as a factor in determining best value and performance for purchases of computer servers."

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, is identical to a version that passed the House of Representatives in July by a 417 to 4 vote.

The law would also instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study analyzing the state of the art of data centers and servers in the U.S., including potential cost savings from the use of energy-efficient products. The EPA is then supposed to recommend new ways to attract interest in energy-efficient products, which has been the goal for years of the government's Energy Star initiative.

The move is arguably a bit belated; High-tech companies have been working for years to reduce the energy consumption of their wares and have been paying especially close attention to the subject in recent times, as data centers continue to grow and proliferate.

Just this week, Dell became the latest company to launch a line of servers that consumes less power than other models. Sun Microsystems and SGI, among others, also make servers touted as less power hungry. and IBM have programs in place designed to reduce data center energy use.

And for good reason; Large companies spend 15 to 20 percent of their data centers' operating budget on power and cooling, said Piper Cole, a vice president at Sun. That means that by 2009, U.S. businesses will be coughing up twice as much for power and cooling as they did to buy the data centers' server hardware in the first place, Cole added.

In a statement on Friday, Cole praised the bill's passage as "an important step toward promoting not only more environmentally responsible computing for government and industry, but also better fiscal health as a result of the tremendous savings possible through more energy efficient technologies."