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Melanie Rodier
Melanie Rodier
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Data Centers Are Heading To The Sea

Data centers are turning to the sea and to the depths of the earth in the search for more efficient cooling.

Data center engineers are constantly looking for more efficient ways to cool their power-guzzling facilities. Now, Google announced it is using seawater to cool a data center which it opened on the coast of Finland.

It is the first time that seawater is being used for data center cooling, according to Google.

The data center, located in Hamina, Finland, is still under construction. It is one of Google's five plants.

The seawater it uses for cooling runs through existing infrastructure Google is using, which was originally built for an old paper mill.

Google used a quarter-mile long seawater tunnel that could fit a tractor through it that had already been constructed to deliver seawater to the old paper mill, according to DatacenterDynamics.

“We take seawater directly from the Gulf of Finland,” Google director of operations Joe Kava said in a Google video about the Hamina data center.

“We run it through a seawater tunnel that was ... built for the paper mill in the early 1950s. Then we run it through heat exchangers. And we use direct exchange through those heat exchangers to dissipate the server load heat from the data center. Then we return that seawater to a tempering building, where we take in fresh seawater, mix it with the outgoing warmer water so that when we return it back to the Gulf, we return it at a temperature that is much more similar to the inlet temperature, so that we minimize any environmental impact in that area.”

He added,“There is no compressor-based or refrigerant-based cooling here. It’s all natural seawater cooling.”

Beyond the sea, data centers could soon be turning to the depths of the earth for cooling too.

Intel is currently exploring geothermal cooling options. "If you dig a big hole, that's a consistent cold air temperature. ... We're looking at the coldness of the earth as opposed to cooling the hot air we have," Don Atwood, senior data center engineer and strategist with Intel, recently told WS&T.

Meanwhile, some financial institutions are looking to improve efficiency [cooling alone can account for as much as 70 percent of the total energy consumption of a data center] simply by using outdoor air -- which is of course, free.

Winters are cold enough in certain North American regions that some of the newest data centers, including a Citi data center in the midwest, are now drawing on natural cooling for at least part of the year, Citi said in a recent interview.

Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in April 2007, Melanie lived in Paris, where she worked for the International Herald ... View Full Bio
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