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CO2 Emissions room-48

Published on December 14th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer

14

300 Million-Year-Old Limestone Cave to Cool Data



After a good 20,000 years out of caves, we are heading back to them – and just like your worst fears, it’s the damn global warmers and Al Gore-ists leading the way, because it saves so much energy.

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It turns out that limestone caverns might be the cheapest and best option for carbon neutral data-center cooling, because by nature limestone can absorb 1.5 BTUs per square foot for free. And data centers need lots of energy for cooling.

So this time we’re taking computers back in there with us. Or rather we’re leaving them down there. At least the data centers, that is. An experiment in data center energy efficiency has been going on for six months to find the best way to use the natural conditions and engineering designs to make the perfect environment for electronic documents at Iron Mountain.

The goal of Iron Mountain CEO Charles Doughty is to create low cost and energy-efficient data centers in Room 48, 22 stories down inside Iron Mountain, in a 145 acre space in a 1,000-acre abandoned limestone mine.

Rectangular metal containers covering the rows of server racks trap electrical heat and force it up through perforated ceiling tiles, where the limestone roof absorbs the heat buildup. Simple tech. Energy use is 15% lower than traditional data centers. The hope is to get to the point where no energy is used for cooling.

Four hundred million years ago, a teeming ocean covered this area. And over a hundred million years, as billions of tiny crustaceans died, their skeletons settled to the ocean floor, fossilizing and creating layer upon layer of limestone.

This data center would be the oldest building that could qualify for an energy efficiency LEED certification!

Image and Source: Computerworld

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • rockzoo

    I think its wronge it clearly states in the BIBLE that God made the world and its only been 2,000 years since then so all this million and thousand year stuff is wronge!

  • rockzoo

    I think its wronge it clearly states in the BIBLE that God made the world and its only been 2,000 years since then so all this million and thousand year stuff is wronge!

  • Susan Kraemer

    I agree with you jj.

    This is an amusing story, but it is hardly the best option. I like the synergistic arrangements better too. There’s a market for heat. Nothing is waste.

  • Susan Kraemer

    I agree with you jj.

    This is an amusing story, but it is hardly the best option. I like the synergistic arrangements better too. There’s a market for heat. Nothing is waste.

  • JJ

    The best place to put any energy guzzling data center is a colder place that NEEDS to be heated up year round, like apartment buildings or towns that have co-generation. Indeed IBM has done precisely that, but I lost the link. Since these data centers are often packaged up into shipping containers, they can easily be moved around to where electricity is cheapest but still has good bandwidth.

    Putting the waste heat into a cold cave is really not smart unless you don’t care about wasting thermal energy or about warming said cave.

    Putting it into the arctic or Greenland would be even more stupid unless you actually want to warm those places up too and they likely would have the electricity either.

    Even in a warmer climate, waste heat can be used to drive heat driven cooling systems so they don’t need to leave silicon valley. Its just a question of finding a market for the waste heat.

  • JJ

    The best place to put any energy guzzling data center is a colder place that NEEDS to be heated up year round, like apartment buildings or towns that have co-generation. Indeed IBM has done precisely that, but I lost the link. Since these data centers are often packaged up into shipping containers, they can easily be moved around to where electricity is cheapest but still has good bandwidth.

    Putting the waste heat into a cold cave is really not smart unless you don’t care about wasting thermal energy or about warming said cave.

    Putting it into the arctic or Greenland would be even more stupid unless you actually want to warm those places up too and they likely would have the electricity either.

    Even in a warmer climate, waste heat can be used to drive heat driven cooling systems so they don’t need to leave silicon valley. Its just a question of finding a market for the waste heat.

  • http://www.akamarkman.com akamarkman

    Oh c’mon Bill, every data center needs a built-in steam engine…

  • http://www.akamarkman.com akamarkman

    Oh c’mon Bill, every data center needs a built-in steam engine…

  • Bill Woods

    “Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this less efficient than feeding the excess energy generated by computer hardware straight into a building’s HVAC system?”

    … if the building needs *lots* of heating.

  • Bill Woods

    “Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this less efficient than feeding the excess energy generated by computer hardware straight into a building’s HVAC system?”

    … if the building needs *lots* of heating.

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com Global Patriot

    The two most natural places for data centers are in underground caves and in the northern latitudes near the arctic circle, where things are naturally cool. With the advent of cloud computing, the servers can be anywhere on the planet!

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com Global Patriot

    The two most natural places for data centers are in underground caves and in the northern latitudes near the arctic circle, where things are naturally cool. With the advent of cloud computing, the servers can be anywhere on the planet!

  • http://www.akamarkman.com akamarkman

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this less efficient than feeding the excess energy generated by computer hardware straight into a building’s HVAC system?

  • http://www.akamarkman.com akamarkman

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this less efficient than feeding the excess energy generated by computer hardware straight into a building’s HVAC system?

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