Telehouse Green: Data Centers’ Natural-Born Cooler
How the Adiabatic Process Enhances Energy Efficiency and Sustainability
Every time you watch Drake’s latest music video on YouTube, Google stats for your fantasy football team, or send a message through company email, a data center – whether located in Chicago or Dublin – expends electricity. It takes an enormous amount of electricity to power and cool a data center. Worldwide, these facilities consume roughly 30 billion watts of electricity. To put that figure in perspective, that’s the equivalent output of 30 nuclear power plants – enough to power all of the households in Italy, a country with a population of nearly 60 million people.
Accounting for one-tenth of the world’s electricity usage, the digital economy is leaving an exceedingly large energy footprint on the environment, as well as an increasingly gaping hole in the pockets of data center owners and operators. Eighty-two percent of overall data center infrastructure cost is spent on power distribution and cooling.
Scandinavia’s Data Center Express
One way to increase the energy efficiency of a data center is the decision of where to build it. Facebook recently launched a new data center in Lulea, a town in a remote corner of northern Sweden, to help reduce costs associated with cooling. Given Lulea’s naturally low year-round temperatures, this facility requires 70 percent less mechanical cooling capacity than the average data center. Across the border in Finland, Google operates a similar facility in the town of Hamina, using wind power and frigid water from the Gulf of Finland to cool its computers. In Norway, underground tunnels linking data halls in the Green Mountain Data Center use the chilly waters from a nearby fjord to support its cooling system.
However, what if your data center isn’t located in Scandinavia, but in Dubai or Phoenix, where summertime temps can rise to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit? Ideally, data centers try to keep server room temperatures at 72 degrees with a 48 percent humidity level. Hot climates pose a particularly difficult challenge to cooling data centers, significantly impacting operational expenditures and making them more prone to expensive outages.
Cool, But Thirsty
Fortunately, emerging cooling technologies are making it possible to increase the energy efficiency of data centers, resulting in lower PUE and reduced OpEx. Many data center operators are turning to direct liquid cooling techniques to keep their facilities at an ideal temperature. Unfortunately, these practices often employ the irresponsible overuse of clean water, requiring extensive fluid disposal and ongoing water treatment. In developed countries, data centers contribute to industry’s consumption of 45 percent of all available clean water, leaving many facility operators thirsty for a more sustainable solution. There is a better way.
From Mountaintop to Infrastructure
Utilizing natural evaporative processes, indirect adiabatic cooling technology is not only environmentally friendly, but is beneficial to the data center owner-operator’s bottom line. According to adiabatic cooling principles, when a mass of air rises — as it does when it moves upslope against a mountain range — it encounters decreasing atmospheric pressure with increasing elevation. The air mass expands until it reaches pressure equilibrium with the external environment. This expansion results in a cooling of the air mass.
In data centers in both hot and temperate climates, adiabatic processes enable free cooling methods, which use freely available natural phenomena to regulate temperature. The principle of adiabatic cooling has been harnessed to develop cooling units that can save industry millions of liters of water. As compared to traditional cooling systems, adiabatic units can also save more than 40 percent electricity. While that’s extraordinary in itself, what makes this technology even more desirable is its ability to do reduce energy expenditures while minimizing environmental impact.
Green is the New Black
Telehouse North Two data center, located at the company’s iconic Docklands campus in London, features the world’s first multi-story adiabatic cooling system. The facility’s cooling system addresses the restrictions driven by load fluctuations and delivers an industry-leading PUE of 1.16 in an N+2 configuration into hot aisle containment. The use of this advanced cooling technology positions Telehouse North Two as one of the greenest data centers in the world.
Telehouse’s sustainability initiatives aren’t limited to its North Two data center. Telehouse New York Teleport has also made green technology investments with new upgrades to its Chiller and UPS systems, expanding the facility’s cooling capacity by 50 percent and allowing for increased energy efficiency and greater scalability for its customers. These two projects, completed in 2016, support infrastructure reliability and stability for this U.S. purpose-built data center, with dual power residing just 17 miles out of Manhattan.
So, whether you’re binge-watching the latest can’t-miss Netflix series on your smart TV or downloading that 7.5 MB PowerPoint for tomorrow’s client presentation, as more data centers transition to adiabatic cooling systems, take comfort knowing that at least some of your personal and professional digital life is supported by green, sustainable technology.