General Electric today said it will spend $520 million to acquire Lineage Power Holdings, a company that specializes in fine-tuning power for servers, storage devices and other equipment inside datacenters.

GE bought the company from the Gores Group. Lineage pulled in $450 million of revenue in 2010.

Lineage's products, in a nutshell, take high-voltage AC power from the grid and turn it into steady streams of power for datacenters. The portfolio includes AC-DC converters, DC-DC converters, equipment for DC datacenters and other components.

Green IT stands as one of the largest potential markets in clean energy and efficiency. Datacenters only account for approximately 2 percent of U.S. electricity consumption. Utilities, however, are in many parts of the country capping the power that datacenters can buy. This puts banks and web companies like Google in an uncomfortable position: either don't grow your business or find ways to squeeze out more calculations per watt.

As a result, green datacenter equipment isn't an option like solar panels or fuel cells might be. It has become a necessity. Mike Dauber at Battery Ventures points out that one company recently calculated that to build its dream datacenter, it would have to build it next door to the Hoover Dam to get enough power.

Some of the ideas out there include more efficient cooling and better monitoring of weather conditions inside datacenters (SynapSense) application shifting (Power Assure) liquid cooling (IBM), better power supplies (Google) switching from Intel processors to ARM processors (Calxeda, Freescale, Marvell, Nvidia), more efficient servers that use Intel's Atom processors for phones (SeaMicro), putting datacenters in caves (Helsinki has a datacenter in a WWII-era bomb shelter) and LED lights (Redwood Systems). (I have the hots for this subject; have you noticed?)

One of the more novel ideas: running datacenters completely on DC. In the usual scenario, power is converted from AC to DC and vice-versa, several times before it actually performs any work in the server. Each conversion wastes power. In a DC datacenter, high voltage AC gets converted at the front door, so to speak, and then distributed and consumed as high (or low) voltage DC thereafter. Both Validus DC Systems and Nextek Power Systems have equipment for running datacenters and buildings on DC.

Lineage has more efficient AC-DC equipment, as well as DC equipment, so it will give GE a wide variety of options.

Who might get bought next? Rumors have swirled  around Validus, which works with GE, IBM, and Oracle (via Sun). Nextek gets visitors regularly from companies and government officials in Asia. And the rest of those guys above are somewhat attractive, too.

Like ABB and Siemens, GE has been snapping up acquisitions. Other recent buys include Dressner, an infrastructure company, and Wellstream Holdings, an industrial pipe maker.

Tags: datacenter, energy efficiency, general electric, green it, lineage, nextek, synanpsense, validus