The Intern Diary: Hunting for Energy Efficiency at eBay

by Aman Singh Das | July 21, 2010

  • My Vault

When I originally set out to spend the summer as an EDF Climate Corps fellow at eBay Inc.,Ianticipated spending my 10-week fellowship focused on making the business casefor energy efficiency in the company's data centers. On my first day ateBay headquarters, I realized I had been mistaken. The greatest energy efficiency gains would actually not be inthe data centers, but found elsewhere.

Near the start of my fellowship, eBay Inc. unveiled a new data center named Project Topaz that was 30 percent more efficient than anyother data center in the company's portfolio. In "geek speak,"it has a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.4 thanks to water-sideeconomization, in-row cooling and 400V power distribution. As a ClimateCorps fellow who has been trained on data center efficiency measures aimed at enablingcompanies to pick low-hanging fruit and cut costs on wasted energy, it has beennearly impossible to make any recommendations for a facility that is already soadvanced in its green initiatives.

Obviously I needed to refocus the scope of my project.

The EDFClimate Corps Internship connects MBA students with companies on want to focuson becoming more sustainable in their operations by focusing on energyefficiency solutions. Megan Rast is part of their 2010 class

Thankfully, my supervisor introduced me to colleaguesthroughout the organization in workplace resources, procurement, IT andcorporate communications. Considering over 2,400 of eBay Inc.'s employeesare members of the Green Team, I was not surprised by the contagious enthusiasmfor sustainability.

Academic studies on energy efficiency in Californiashow that while commercial consumption has grown, efficiency has remained thesame. Despite this marketplace reality, I was not surprised to hear thatas of May 2010, the number of watts per listing on eBay had declined 55 percentsince the second quarter of 2008. Members of the Green Team are efficiencyexperts in a company that has championed sustainability in both its e-commercebusiness as well as its own operational footprint. Atop the building I'vebeen sitting in this summer, stands the largest commercial solar installation in San Jose.Next to it is a 500kW installation of Bloom Energy boxes that together accountfor more than 30 percent of the campus's energy needs.

All of these factors do, however, make my 10-weektreasure hunt for energy efficiency that much more difficult.

While other Climate Corps fellows this year have reportedmassive savings from finding lights on at night and changing fluorescent lighting to T-8s from T-12s,eBay's facilities and operations have yet to yield such low-hanging fruit. The Green Team has already installed automated lighting schedules and motionsensors, upgraded to T-8s years ago, employed direct digital control andair-side economization in HVAC, and certified a building as LEED Gold back in2008. I even eat from the “Low-Carbon Diet” line at the cafeteria.

Very rapidly, I've adjusted any expectations of sweepingin to heroically discover major energy efficiency gains. This is not tosay that eBay Inc. has finished a "job well done." On thecontrary, I have found my value add this summer as a needed resource forongoing projects as colleagues try to manage the energy usage and carbon outputof their business unit or department. Although energy efficiency is acontinuing goal, rarely does a decision-maker understand the energy impacts ofeach option up for consideration without relying on other expertise.

And who knows? I still have three weeks left thissummer – plenty of time to continue digging around for that hidden goldmine ofenergy efficiency treasure.

--By Megan Rast, 2010 EDFClimate Corps Fellow at eBay Inc., MBA candidate at HaasSchool of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Member ofNetImpact

This is the second post by Megan Rast in aseries of blogs that In Good Company will host this summer in collaboration with EDF, featuring fellows fromtheir 2010 Climate Corps class, as they journey through their internships. Withtheir posts, these interns will give us a rare lens into the behind-the-scenesoperations at companies who are proactively discussing corporatesustainability, one conversation at a time.

Filed Under: CSR

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