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HP opens first wind-cooled green data center; most efficient to date

HP opens first wind-cooled green data center; most efficient to date

Posting in Energy

Hewlett-Packard has opened its newest green data center in northeast England, cooled entirely by cold wind blowing off the North Sea.

Hewlett-Packard has officially opened its newest green data center in northeast England, cooled entirely by cold wind blowing off the North Sea.

HP Enterprise Services says its new 360,00 sq. ft. Wynyard center is 40 percent more energy-efficient than conventional data centers thanks to its harnessing of wind to lower temperatures of IT equipment and plant rooms.

Data centers are long-known to be electrical power hogs and worse, major carbon emissions culprits. Traditional data centers use thousands of megawatt hours per year -- so much in total that if they were classed as a separate industry, they would be the sixth-largest user of electricity.

Much of that energy usage and emissions are the result of cooling systems. HP's data center, located near the town of Billingham, is trying to take a more intelligent approach by harnessing natural -- and quite cold -- winds.

How cold is cold? The system keeps the hall at a constant 24 degrees Celsius, or approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The outside temperature only rises above that for about 20 hours per year. (The facility uses traditional chillers for those occasions.)

"When Wynyard is completed it will be one of the largest data centers in Europe, but will achieve costs and energy savings on a different level from other data centers," HP Data Center Services Lead Sally Poynter said in a statement.

By 2011, HP expects the average U.K. data center to spend $15.33 million per year on cooling systems. That means efficiency and going green is a smart financial move, too.

Here's how Wynyard cut its carbon footprint:

  • Eight 2.2 meter-diameter steel and plastic fans in each of the four halls in the data center are used to supply air. Another eight are used to exhaust air.
  • A mixing chamber in the facility recirculates air to maintain conditions in the 5m-high pressurized plenum, or cavity, below the computer equipment.
  • There are 8,100 square meters of technical space at an average capacity of 2,260 watts per square meter to a tier 3 standard.
  • Humidification and cooling coils in the data center tune the outside air condition, while modular filters remove contaminants.
  • The facility is harvesting rainwater, which it filters and stores in 80,000-liter tanks. It uses this water to maintain proper humidity levels in the air that's brought in from outside.
  • The facility uses light-colored server racks because they reflect light, allowing for 40 percent less lighting to be installed compared to using black cabinets.

The average price per kilowatt-hour? About $0.117, which will save Wynyard approximately $1.4 million per hall with a carbon footprint of "less than half" the competition.

Or, by Power Usage Effectiveness -- a ratio that compares the total power used by a facility to the power used by its equipment -- Wynyard manages 1.2 PUE. That means for every 1.2 watts of electricity used to power the facility, 1 watt is used to power its IT equipment, leaving 0.2 watts for cooling and other facility needs.

There you have it: HP's most energy-efficient data center.

The company is targeting public and private sector companies to house their infrastructure in the new data center, which was originally started by EDS until that company was acquired by HP in 2008.

HP had previously announced that it plans to reduce the combined energy consumption of operations and products by 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2010.

Wynyard is a major step toward that.

Related on SmartPlanet sister site ZDNet:

Editor's note: The original version of this post incorrectly stated how the PUE of Wynyard is calculated. It has been corrected.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure