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Company saves about $1M USD a year via, multi-site useage approach, system recouped cost in a single year

European data center firm Interexion decided to try its hand at a unique cooling scheme for its data center in Stockholm, Sweden -- seawater cooling.  The idea has been a resounding success; except for the occasional jellyfish induced difficulty.

The government occasionally orders Interexion to shut down its seawater pumping for environmental reasons, forcing the company to fall back on traditional chillers.  Asked why, the company's chief engineering officer Lex Coors remarks, "I think it's to protect the jellyfish."

The system cost was reduced somewhat by the fact that Stockholm already pumps water from the bay for cooling other locations; thus the system cost "only" $1M USD (appr.) to deploy.  At the Uptime Institute's data center conference in Santa Clara, California, Mr. Coors proudly announced that the project had paid for itself within a year, thanks to the sea water's extraordinary low cost.

In electric cooling terms, the seawater cost a measly $0.03 USD/kWh, far less than the cost of buying more expensive electric power to cool.  The icy seawater enters at 42.8 °F (~6 °C) and cools three sites.  The first has an exit temperature of 53.6 °F (~12 °C), the second 64.4 °F (~18 °C), and the third 75.2 °F (~24 °C).  The waste heat flow is even reused, sent to a heat pump to heat homes and businesses.

HTC Storm
Icy seawater cools Interexion's Swedish server farm. [Image Source: SOC Wallpapers]

When the project began, Interexion paid $1M USD annually to cool a 1-megawatt (MW) load. Since it's used the project to expand, while keeping costs down.  Today it pays $5.4M USD to cool 5.5 MW of load, approximately a $1M USD annual savings.  The system took its Power Usage Effectiveness Ratio -- a measure of energy efficiency -- from 1.95 down to an impressive 1.09.

The key to Interexion's particularly good results is reusing the seawater at several facilities; by contrast Google Inc.'s (GOOGseawater cooled server farm in Finland only uses the water on a single facility.

The company would like to expand the strategy to cold rivers, mountain aquifers, and seas in the other ten countries it operates in.  But environmental regulators remain a headache.  Mr. Coors told the audience, "London would be excellent if we could get access to the Thames, but they're kind of scared [of the environmental impact]."

Source: Network World





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