The internet, computers, cell phones, and other wireless devices have become such an important part of our daily lives it’s hard to imagine how we can live without them. Out there, backing up data, powering the internet, and pretty much keeping our digital lives up and running are massive data centers. These data centers are not only energy hogs for all of the electricity they use keep the endless numbers of servers, storage devices, and other equipment powered up; they also require intensive climate control.
Think of how hot your laptop gets when you use it for a prolonged period of time. Now imagine a room filled floor to ceiling with machines much more powerful than your laptop, running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These entire buildings, much like the sever room in any large office; need to be kept cool to prevent overheating and failure of the devices.
Google (always energy conscious, with solar powered offices, and a plan to link all the proposed offshore wind farms into one electric network) has come up with a few unique solutions to reduce the energy needed to keep their data centers cool. One of them is rather obvious, put the data centers in a place that’s naturally cold! Google is putting a data center in Finland, which certainly will need to use less air conditioning than one in California. Not only will this data center have the naturally low temperatures keeping it cool, but the facility is based in an old factory that used sea water to cool down the industrial equipment. Pumping sea water through pipes in the building will work much like a power plant sucking in water to cool itself down or geothermal building taking advantage of the naturally mild temperatures below ground.
Taking advantage of the natural environment and weather makes a lot of sense when you have a facility that can, for the most part, be located anywhere in the geographic region it serves. While Google seems to be taking the lead on these ideas (not to mention working on a data center floating out in the ocean) rumor has it that Facebook and Yahoo also plan to follow suit. Going green doesn’t always require using the latest technology or conservation techniques; sometimes it just requires using a little common sense to solve the problem. Who knows, maybe North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Alaska will become new technology hotbeds thanks to their cooler climates.