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TeraCool’s Audacious Idea: Data Centers Next to Liquid Gas Plants

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Will future data centers be located next to liquid natural gas plants, like this one in Tokyo? That’s the idea being put forth by TeraCool. (Photo by Yo-sei_Shoshi via Wikimedia Commons)

Will data centers leverage liquid gas plants to generate cooling and electrical power for data centers? Concord, Massachusetts-based TeraCool believes so. By locating data centers in close proximity with liquid natural gas terminals, it improves the efficiency of both facilities, the company says. Natural gas storage plants produce excess refrigeration, and waste enough energy to potentially power data centers.

TeraCool has developed a way to bring the two industries together. The company says its approach can achieve mutual energy conservation, significant cost savings and environmental benefits including air, water and green house gas emissions reductions. It has created a method that links a data center’s rejected heat and a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal’s surplus refrigeration via a heat transfer loop. There’s a potential symbiotic relationship here, as the waste heat from servers can help vaporize natural gas, and the energy released from the process could in turn power a data center.

Natural gas is extracted from the ground, then liquefied by condensing it. It is transported in liquid form in tankers to LNG plants and stored in tanks, then turned back into a gas when it’s needed. The process stores energy, and the process releases energy. The energy and cooling normally go to waste because they’re usually isolated from other potential buildings and centers that might be able to use this excess energy. Now, it’s a matter of convincing data centers to build and align with this idea.

TeraCool recently won the “Audacious Idea Award” at the Uptime Institute’s Green Enterprise IT (GEIT) awards 2013, which recognizes new, unprecedented ideas for realizing energy and resource efficiency. Other finalists included Microsoft’s “data plant” proof-of-concept in Wyoming and s freestanding chilled air duct developed by QTS (Quality Technology Services).

Other GEIT Award winners of note

The Uptime Institute says the award helps surface new approaches to complex problems, and contributes to industry innovation.

“There’s two things behind the award scenes,” Matt Stansberry, Director of Content and Program Director, notes about the awards. “The judges panel consists of radical, household name companies. It’s a double blind process, one of the most democratic processes out there. The other thing that’s important about the rewards is the data churn. The documents they submit are really about sharing what worked for them. This is the biggest reason Ken (Brill, founder of Uptime Institute) started this was to get people talking.”

“The bottom line is that Green IT has gotten a lot better, especially on the enterprise level,” said Stansberry.

Interxion, TD Bank also noteworthy winners

Other winners include Interxion which won the “Facility Retrofit Award” for its use of seawater to cool its Stockholm data center.  Interxion is a leading provider of cloud and carrier-neutral colocation data center services in Europe, supporting more than 1,300 customers at 33 data centres across 11 countries.

Another noteworthy award winner was TD Bank Group, which won for Facility Design Innovation. TD Bank Group’s new facility integrates sustainable design elements including rainwater harvesting, onsite renewable energy generation, heat recovery systems and natural lighting. The company met its IT goals through server virtualization, tiered storage platforms, energy efficient infrastructure, overhead cabling and more. In short, it went above and beyond in terms of design and implementation. The phased construction project is Tier III certified by Uptime and LEED Platinum certified by USGBC.

AOL, Barclays Feted in Server Roundup

AOL and Barclays won the second annual Uptime Server Roundup for their efforts to improve data center efficiency. “The purpose of Server Roundup is to highlight what should be a routine activity – removing obsolete hardware from the data center, and moving it to the forefront of the conversation,” said Stansberry.

This was the second straight win for AOL, which prevailed in the initial 2011 roundup. This year is decommissioned 8,253 servers, resulting in (gross) total savings of almost $3 million from reduced utility costs, maintenance and recovery of asset resale/scrap. Environmental benefits were seen in the reduction of more than 16,000 tons of carbon emissions, according to AOL.

Barclays, a global financial organization, removed 5,515 obsolete servers in 2012, with power savings of around three megawatts, and $3.4 million annualized savings for power, and a further $800K savings in hardware maintenance.

According to industry estimates, around 20 percent of servers in data centers today are obsolete, outdated or unused. Decommissioning one rack unit (1U) of servers can result in a savings of $500 per year in energy costs, an additional $500 in operating system licenses and $1,500 in hardware maintenance costs.

Other finalists can be found here. The winner can be found here with all winners will present their case studies at Uptime Institute Symposium 2013, taking place May 13-16, 2013, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif.

About the Author

Jason Verge is an Editor/Industry Analyst on the Data Center Knowledge team with a strong background in the data center and Web hosting industries. In the past he’s covered all things Internet Infrastructure, including cloud (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS), mass market hosting, managed hosting, enterprise IT spending trends and M&A. He writes about a range of topics at DCK, with an emphasis on cloud hosting.

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