A small but growing number of data centers are slashing their cooling costs by using the environment as their chiller, tapping nearby rivers, underground lakes, wells and even the Baltic Sea. A new project in Norway plans to draw cold water from an adjacent fjord and use it to cool data halls.
The Green Mountain Data Center is located on the shores of the island of Rennesoy, inside concrete buildings within caves carved out of the mountain. Racks of servers will now fill underground halls that once stored ammunition for NATO.
The project is being developed by the investment arm of the Norwegian shipping firm Smedvig, which is working with a leading Nordic IT services firm, ErgoGroup, and electric utility Lyse Energi.
The ability to use the fjord as a low-cost source for chilled water was a major advantage of the Rennesoy location. Green Mountain's cooling system taps the fjord for a steady supply of water at 8 degrees C (46 degrees F), which is optimal for use in data center cooling systems.
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. Eliminating the chillers will usually allow a data center to operate with lower energy bills than similar facilities using chillers.
The Green Mountain Data Center is being built out in two phases. The first phase is designed for traditional colocation space, and will include about 7,000 square meters (about 75,000 square feet) of data center space. Another 4,000 square meters (43,000 square feet) will house data center container solutions, which will also use chilled water for cooling.
The developers are in the late stages of negotiations with Norwegian clients, but believe the facility may be attractive to multi-nationals based in the U.S. and Europe. "We are now mainly focusing on corporate customers with worldwide facilities who wish to reduce their carbon footprint across their portfolio of data centres, improve their 'green credentials' and reduce spending on power," said Jonathan Evans of Green Mountain.
The build-out of the colocation halls will begin in January, and the power to the facility is also being upgraded. Green Mountain expects the first clients to be installed in late 2012. Here's a video providing a conceptual overview of the project.