Photo by Peter Kaminski via Flickr CC
Google has never been a slouch when it comes to trying out new ways to make its data centers as energy efficient as possible. Some ideas have been ocean-centric, such as its wave-powered data center concept. Slightly less futuristic but no less interesting idea is a seawater-cooled data center. Google plans to test out just such a data center starting this Fall. Earth2Tech reports that Google will begin using the world's first seawater-cooled data center in Finland starting in the Fall. The data center is housed in an old paper mill, which already had established seawater tunnels used for cooling its manufacturing equipment. Because the data center is still in the testing phase, Google doesn't yet know the PUE (an efficiency rating system for data centers). The closer to 1, the better for a rating. The industry average is somewhere around 2, though Google has far surpassed that with previous data center projects.
Here's a video from Google on the facility:
The heat transfer units are the heart of the cooling system, and the seawater pumps into the heat transfer system, cools the data center, and then the water itself is cooled slightly before being pumped back out to sea. Google wanted the water that was pumped back out to sea to be similar in temperature to the water that entered the system, as to have as little impact as possible on the surrounding ecosystem. "It was the right thing to do," says Kava. Google also did extensive thermal modelling to study the tides, plant life, and seasons over a 30-year-period of the surrounding coastal area, and this information determined where the water should come in and out of the system, also to have as little environmental impact as possible.
More and more, IT companies are looking at how they can make data centers ever more energy efficient. Microsoft, IBM and Yahoo have all done extensive work in innovating new ways to shrink the electricity needed to keep servers up and running, from using shipping containers to modeling buildings after chicken coops. Even Facebook has created the Open Compute project to keep energy efficiency as the top priority for future data centers. Google's use of seawater might not make it to the top tier of innovation, but it is certainly breaking ground in technology for a cooling system that may be practical for coastal data centers.
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