Using Mother Nature as Your Chiller

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This graphic depicts the cooling system at the DeepGreen data center in Switzerland, which taps a nearby lake for chilled water (Click for larger image).

Chilled water is a key component of many data center cooling systems. This water is often supplied by chillers, large refrigeration units that require a hefty amount of electricity to operate. A small but growing number of data centers are slashing their cooling costs by using the earth as their chiller, tapping nearby rivers, underground lakes and wells. Here’s a look at some of these projects:

Google: The search giant will use cool sea water in the cooling system for its new data center in Hamina, Finland, which is under construction and scheduled to go live early next year. Google has refurbished the water pumps used at the former newsprint plant, and will use large pipes to draw cool water from the nearby Baltic Sea.

BastionHost: This Canadian provider purchased a former government continuity bunker in Nova Scotia as part of its plan to build a “Dataville” campus. “We have a huge ground water cooling aquifer,” said Anton Self, the CEO of Bastionhost. “My entire plant uses ground water cooling.” The system currently supports the first phase of finished space at the bunker, but Self says Bastionhost is working with hydrogeologists and engineers to tap new wells to help the system scale to upwards of 10 million gallons per day.

SIAG: This company’s “Swiss Fort Knox” data center is located deep below the Swiss Alps, and offers ultra-secure data storage in a nuke-proof facility. The data center also takes advantage of the cooling potential presented by its location, pulling glacial water from an underground lake to use in its cooling systems.

DataDock: This former warehouse facility near Strasbourg has been retooled to house equipment from PlusServer, and taps the area’s extensive groundwater for its supply of 12° C (53 degree F) cold water. The groundwater is pumped out of the wells, then it is filtered to avoid any accumulation in the pipes, and finally it is used inside of datadock to cool down the inner cooling circuit by means of heat exchangers.

Eco-Park: The developers of the Mauritius Eco-Park have announced plans to develop a system to use sea water air conditioning (SWAC) to support data center tenants, tapping deep water currents that flow near the island nation. Cold water cooling systems that tap nearby bodies of water tend to have a high up-front cost in the pipe work, but offer huge savings over the long run.

DeepGreen: The DeepGreen data center is a 46 megawatt facility planned on the shores of Lake Walensee in Switzerland. The facility will be cooled using 43F source water from 197 feet below the surface, which will be brought in through dual redundant intake pipes to the pumping station. The pumps move 668,000 gallons per hour at full cooling load.

For more examples of geothermal cooling, see Geothermal Data Centers, part of our special report on Renewable Energy in the Data Center.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. Weather

    What are the environmental effects of changing the thermal basis of the lake?