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Colo taps cold weather, river for green data center

A Canadian data center colocation company has built a new data center that is energy efficient and uses hydroelectric power, cold-aisle containment, and outside air cooling.

Last week, Canadian data center colocation company RackForce opened a new 30,000-square-foot facility in Kelowna, a city in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with some energy- efficient and green designs in place. We spoke to Brian Fry, RackForce's co-founder and vice president, about the facility.

Why did you decide to build a green data center?
Brian Fry: We were attending a seminar on next-generation data centers, and [they talked] about running out of data center space and the environmental movement. We started realizing that all the ingredients we required were at our fingertips.

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What ingredients?
Fry: We have hydropower so the carbon footprint is miniscule compared to carbon. We're in a stable part of the world. It is cool for a large portion of the year, so cooling costs were minimal. And IBM already told us that they needed data center space in western Canada. So we started going down that road.

Are you using all hydropower, and where does the power come from?
The idea is that you don't concentrate important data center resources on a space that's sitting empty.
Brian Fry
co-founder and VPRackForce
Fry: It's all fed by the Columbia River. It's almost completely hydro. There is still spillover from other grids around, but it's as close to pure as you can get. We've done research and determined that this data center emits 21 grams of CO2 (carbon dioxide) per kilowatt-hour. There are areas in West Virginia, for example, that sit at over 1,000 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour.

What other energy efficient designs do you have in place?
Fry: This facility has cold-aisle containment, which is fed by in-row cooling. So we can concentrate cooling to the specific racks that need it. In the future, the waste heat will go into a district heating loop that will go through community buildings and homes. And then the outside cold air cools the chilled water that feeds all the way to the in-row coolers. We'll be able to have up to 300 days where we're using the outside air for cooling.

A 30,000-square-foot facility is big. How did you design it so you wouldn't waste cooling?

Fry: There is a whole modular strategy that we use. The idea is that you don't concentrate important data center resources on a space that's sitting empty. The old model was to build a big data center and throw cold air into it. In our model, we're able to concentrate cooling to specific spots.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. Also, check out our blogs: Data Center Facilities Pro, Mainframe Propeller Head, and Server Farming.

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