Tech giant Yahoo’s new data center in upstate New York may resemble a giant chicken coop, but inside those almost whimsical looking walls there is some serious energy conservation going on. Instead of using conventional chillers or air conditioning to cool the servers, Yahoo is relying almost entirely on letting outside air blow through the building. James Niccolai of IDG News reports that the new design reduces energy costs by about 40%, and here’s the green kicker: the servers will run mainly on hydroelectricity.
Data Centers and the U.S. Department of Energy
Yahoo’s new data center – named, appropriately enough, the Yahoo Computing Coop – was built with a grant of almost $10 million from the Department of Energy, which has been urgently promoting energy efficiency in data centers. In the U.S., about 1.5% of energy use goes to data centers, and that figure is bound to rise unless significant efficiency improvements are made. DOE also speaks from experience: computing at the agency’s own data centers only accounts for 60% of the energy used. The rest goes for cooling and other building-related functions. That’s a pretty good sized chunk of energy that can be whittled away, as Yahoo has done. The Computing Coop only uses 10 percent of its energy for cooling.
Other Energy Efficient Data Centers
The Computing Coop is an impressive feat, and that’s just one example of the significant advances that can be made in data center design. In California, the energy efficient Advanced Data Center combines regulated outside air and water flow to conserve energy. A different approach is illustrated by a co-generating data center in Helsinki, where waste heat is captured and shunted to the city’s district heating system. Meanwhile, DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Renewable Energy Laboratory are working on new data center technologies that could achieve efficiencies of up to 90 percent.
Image: Chicken by mrmanc on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.