Now your data center can really withstand a blackout.

IBM and Syracuse University plan to build a $12.4 million, 6,000 foot data center that will effectively be powered by natural gas. Natural gas turbines will provide power for the computers, storage systems and servers.

Heat from the microturbines, meanwhile, will be captured and funnelled into a double-effect absorption chiller that will convert the heat into chilled water. That chilled water will then be utilized to cool down the computers. Air conditioning can take up half of the power delivered to a data center. Waste heat by contrast is arguably free energy. The turbines and chillers will allow the university to run the data center off the grid. But that raises the question: Why not also try to harvest the heat from the computers? Well, a group in Finland is building an underground data center that will try to do just that.

The data center will also include a DC-power distribution system. Since the power comes from turbines, and not the grid, it will not have to be converted from AC to DC. That will curb power losses.

If all goes well, the data center will consume about half of the power of a similarly sized conventional data center.

Natural gas is fast becoming one of the more popular clean fuels on the market, in part because it can produce both heat and power. Panasonic and ClearEdge Power have introduced domestic fuel cells that can provide electricity and heat for hot water to homes. The systems, when both heat and power are combined are 80 percent to 90 percent efficient. Without the captured heat, they are closer to 40 percent efficient.