Data Center Powered By The Wind

A small lSP and hosting company in Illinois may be the first data center operator in the U.S. to power its facility entirely with wind power from an on-site turbine. On Oct. 19, Other World Computing began using a 131-foot tall wind turbine to provide all the electric power for its building in Woodstock, Illinois.

The  131-foot tall wind turbine at Other World Computing in Woodstock, Illinois.

The 131-foot tall wind turbine at Other World Computing in Woodstock, Illinois.

A small lSP and hosting company in Illinois may be the first data center operator in the U.S. to power its facility entirely with wind power from an on-site turbine. On Oct. 19, Other World Computing (OWC) began using a 131-foot tall wind turbine to provide all the electric power for its building in Woodstock, Illinois, which includes the company's headquarters and a data center supporting its web hosting and ISP services.

There are other data center operators that use utility power that is sourced from wind generation. But this is the first example we've seen of a working data center with on-site wind generation that can produce enough power to support its entire facility. That's partly due to the fact that OWC has a small data center, which can be supported by a single wind turbine, limiting the initial investment required to commit fully to wind power. The company has also invested in other energy efficiency measures for its facility, reducing its overall electricity needs.

OWC is one of several examples of data centers seeking to go "all in" on wind energy for their data center. Here's a look at other data center projects focused on wind energy:

  • Green House Data in Cheyenne, Wyoming operates a 10,000 square foot data center that is powered entirely through renewable wind energy from its local utility. The company useselectricity provided by Cheyenne, Light, Fuel and Power, which has partnered with Tierra Energy on a 30-megawatt wind generation site in Cheyenne. Green House Data plans to build several wind turbines on site in the next several years, and says it facility is the largest wind-powered public data center in the nation.
  • The Microsoft Virtual Earth service operates out of a data center container housed at a Microsoft facility in Boulder, Colo. The container is "100 percent wind powered" through offsets purchased from Boulder-based Renewable Choice Energy. While not powered directly by "wind turbines" Microsoft has tapped into a major advantage of containers: they can easily be placed near renewable energy sources, allowing companies to chase green power to meet carbon reduction goals.
  • Texas startup Baryonyx plans to build a data center powered by energy from huge "wind farms" in the Texas panhandle and the Gulf of Mexico. In the first phase of the project, Baryonyx plans to build a 28,000 square foot data center in Stratford, Texas which will be powered by 100 wind turbines built on the adjacent land that will generate up to 150 megawatts of power.

OWC, which also operates an online catalog of iPod, and iPhone products, uses utility power when the wind dies down, and also has generators on site. The company's Vestas V39-500 wind turbine, which arrived in September, can provide 500 kilowatts of power. That's plenty to support the 37,000 square foot facility, which already employs a geothermal cooling system. OWC estimates that the turbine will generate 1.25 million kilowatt hours of power per year, more than twice the amount OWC needs for its operations.

The tower is 131 feet high with the blades extending the turbine's total height to 194 feet. The blade housing can rotate 360 degrees so it can turn facing into winds up to 150 mph. During extreme winds, the blades automatically go "flat" with the narrowest point into the wind and in essence, shut the turbine down until it senses safe operational wind speeds.

The turbine cost about $1.25 million, and will take between 10 and 14 years to recover the cost, according to OWC.

"I made the decision to 100 percent self fund this project because of the conservational benefits as well as the future cost of energy," said Larry O'Connor, CEO, Other World Computing, in the press release. "With the kilowatt hour rate in the Chicago market up 24.3percent since 1999, it only makes sense to use technology to lower our usage and costs related to traditional power sources."

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