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John O | September 2017

Companies using oceans to cool massive data centers around the world


A recent article on Motherboard highlights the efforts that major corporations, including Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and others, are initiating to provide sustainable cooling for the massive data centers that dot the globe.

 


Google's Finnish data center uses seawater for cooling. (Google/YouTube)

 

As the article noted, a company such as Google processes an estimated 40,000 search queries per second, which requires immense processing power and data capabilities. The article added, “As the demand for these centres grows, the innovation that goes into building them gets increasingly more sophisticated.

 

It is not only the amount of data that has grown through the years, but also the amount of power required to keep these data centers running. Energy concerns have led the companies to seek alternative, more environmentally-friendly options for providing power, including taking advantage of natural resources like the ocean.

 

One attempt at using the cooling power of the ocean is taking place in the Finnish city of Hamina, where Google has been running a data center since 2011.

 

“Google's Hamina centre started life originally as the Summa paper mill, an industrial facility built in the 1950s,” the article explained. “Nestled on a quiet bay in the Gulf of Finland, about 130 kilometres northwest of Helsinki, the former mill features a huge seven-by-four-metre tunnel that runs under one of the buildings and directly into the Gulf. Google opened the data centre after a €200 million investment ($240 million USD) that took advantage of the mill's unique architectural feature.”

 

The underground tunnel connects to an intake chamber that feeds the center’s cooling system. Pumps draw the water into heat exchangers, where it pulls heat from the racks of servers before heading back to the sea. The article noted, “When the water returns, it's a few degrees warmer, and actually cleaner, than it was when it went in.”

 

To avoid issues with warm water being pushed into the gulf’s ecosystem, the Hamina system mixes the outgoing water with seawater at the original temperature to minimize its effect.

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