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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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By BifurcatedBoat on 5/17/2013 3:43:06 PM , Rating: 3
As long as they're just pumping the water through pipes and then back out, without doing anything else to it, it doesn't seem like the environmental impact should be too bad.

By Schadenfroh on 5/17/2013 3:53:28 PM , Rating: 5
Ever been pumped through a pipe?

By Bubbacub on 5/17/2013 4:00:33 PM , Rating: 5
i think a grill over the intake should solve that problem.

By Solandri on 5/17/2013 6:07:28 PM , Rating: 5
Seawater cooling is common for power plants. Yes they have grills on the intake, but they still need to inspect them weekly (if not daily) for blockage. And they need a monthly scrubbing to clear out the barnacles and other growth.

The warmer water at the outlet is generally a boon to wildlife. The number of sea creatures living near the warm water outlet far exceeds the number in surrounding areas. At least for power plants in California (which despite the warm weather has a relatively cold ocean).

I'm not sure this qualifies as a high cooling requirement like a power plant though (where about 2/3rds of the energy generated is waste heat). For low cooling/heating requirements, you can simply sink pipes into a river or ocean, and pump water through that in a closed circuit. The water gets warmed by the servers, then is cooled while traveling through the pipes. No need to directly pump in seawater - just let your pipes sit in it.

For terrestrial applications, a lot of times you can just bury the pipes underground. In extremely warm or cold climates, this is usually very cost effective because the ground tends to remain about 50F just 20 feet down. It's cooler than the air when you want air conditioning, and it's warmer than the air when you want heating. When I ran the calcs for a desert construction project, it had an estimated payback time of just 3 years. That is, in 3 years the amount of electricity it saved would pay for its installation.

By Mitch101 on 5/17/2013 8:17:21 PM , Rating: 5
Nice to Sea them thinking outside the box wonder if the competition is Jelly?

By Motoman on 5/19/2013 9:39:26 PM , Rating: 5
Not necessarily...but they do tend to be kind of shellfish.

By DaveLessnau on 5/18/2013 9:51:28 AM , Rating: 3
I'd have thought a closed loop would be better here: no need to worry about sucking in foreign material and the fluid in the pipes wouldn't be as corrosive or carrying minerals that might precipitate out. Of course, I don't know what the relative costs would be.

By DaveLessnau on 5/18/2013 8:02:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not quite. I meant that the pressure/temperature differential at the warm end would push the fluid out to the cold end (the ocean) where it would cool and come back. I'd assume they'd have to use something besides water in the closed loop for the pressure/temperature difference to be able to drive the whole thing passively. But, now that you brought it up, I see that it probably wouldn't work with these temperatures.

By inighthawki on 5/18/2013 9:38:04 PM , Rating: 2
What's hard about a closed loop system where the ocean is the radiator?

By Kiffberet on 5/20/2013 7:26:37 AM , Rating: 2
A closed loop would be more expensive, as you'd have to build some kind of heat exchange to use the cold sea to cool the warm fluid in the system. Depending on the circulation volume this may have to be quite large, and would need to be anchored to the sea bed.

Much cheaper to just suck in cold water and pump out warm water...

By augiem on 5/20/2013 5:00:15 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the fact that your heatsink would be quickly covered in barnacles, sand, etc., drastically reducing its effectiveness.

By lwatcdr on 5/18/2013 10:28:20 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with a closed loop is the actual coolant. You want something that is non-corrosive, well not grow nasty stuff, will not freeze, and non-toxic because pipes do leak. I was thinking of using a ground loop to cool a shed. Bury some PEX tubing under ground and use some kind of radiator and fans too cool the shed.

By marvdmartian on 5/20/2013 8:05:20 AM , Rating: 2
Nope. Not when jellyfish are concerned.

When I was stationed on board the aircraft carrier Enterprise, we actually had to move the ship one time, while at anchor, due to the jellyfish clogging our coolers and condensers. Even with wire mesh grills designed to keep out larger critters in place, the suction was high enough that the jellyfish were simply getting strained through the grills, and ending up inside the coolers/condensers, where they were too thick to make it through the tubes, thus clogging them up.

I had friends who were on watch, down in the engineering spaces, when it happened. They were putting on rubber gloves, taking a cooler off line, opening the clean-out covers (about a dozen or so threaded fasteners), then scooping out buckets full of chopped up jellyfish, closing up the cover, putting the cooler back in service, going on to the next one and doing it all over again. This went on for about 45 minutes, one after another, until the ship was able to get underway and move away from the jellyfish hoarde.

That's right. A multi-billion dollar warship was almost laid up by jellyfish. Seems that even though the water in that area (the Gulf of Oman) was ~85F, the jellyfish were attracted to the ship, because the water we were pumping out of the coolers and condensers (after doing its cooling job) was ~100F.

By FITCamaro on 5/17/2013 4:40:38 PM , Rating: 1
Ever been in a river? I don't see a pipe being any worse than the river itself. Biggest thing to worry about is stuff growing in the pipe. But clean it out once a year and you're probably good. As someone said, put a mesh grill over the inlet and outlet pipes so big stuff doesn't get in.

By lelias2k on 5/18/2013 11:03:01 AM , Rating: 5
I think in the case of Jelly fish it would have to be a mesh surrounding an area around the inlet (like a couple of feet away from it).

The logic being that, if the mesh would be ON the inlet, you would still have a heavy flow inwards, and therefore the jelly fish would be stuck and die on the mesh.

If you surround the area, the flow around the mesh will be dispersed allowing the jelly fish to pass by without being sucked.

But I don't know how big the inlet is nor how strong the flow is, so maybe I'm wrong.

By Strunf on 5/21/2013 11:04:28 AM , Rating: 2
Typically on the water pump stations they bury the inlet under gravel and sand, this way the water gets filtered and you don't pump small fish too, of course this is made in a way you don't reduce the flow nor pump the sand in too.

By daboom06 on 5/17/2013 4:11:25 PM , Rating: 2
thermal pollution is bad. things that live at 4 C wont like living in 10 C water. the things around the exit pipe will die.

if the water leaves at the temperature it came in at, then this isn't a problem.

By TheEinstein on 5/17/2013 4:27:34 PM , Rating: 2
Things wont get near the exit pipe since they wont like the temp... impact would be minimal.

Additionally just run the pipe a long distance with appropriate measures and let the cold water chill the hot water over distance resulting in a near match at the exit point... again minimal impact.

By zephyrprime on 5/17/2013 4:39:02 PM , Rating: 2
They can just dump the waste water at the surface since it's warmer than the colder deep water.

By FITCamaro on 5/17/2013 4:42:03 PM , Rating: 3
Ah so its worse than burning something to produce electricity to power AC chillers...

Seriously. We're talking minimal impact here. As someone else said. Pull in cold water down below, release the warmer water near the surface.

By HostileEffect on 5/18/2013 9:04:53 AM , Rating: 3
Econuts wont be happy until we are living in caves again, without tools this time.

Nothing is ever good enough for them.

By lelias2k on 5/18/2013 11:10:09 AM , Rating: 2
LMAO... yeah, that's exactly what they want.

Why do people make such a big deal about changing our ways in order to be more sustainable?

I'm tired of getting into conversations and proving how little effort and money it takes to change, all the while making a huge difference to the environment.

I understand it is hard to get out of your comfort zone, but I'd expect people who visit this website to be a little bit more aware of how much damage we have caused and continue to cause to the world.

By Fujikoma on 5/17/2013 8:24:41 PM , Rating: 2
Raising the temperature may not seem like it would effect much. It ends up decreasing the amount of oxygen that fish need (also impacting insects and birds) and increasing the amount of phosphorous (impacting plant life). There are other problems, but I don't remember all of them from my engineering classes (it's been a while).

Think of the jellyfish!
By Cheesew1z69 on 5/17/2013 3:35:32 PM , Rating: 1
They must be protected!

RE: Think of the jellyfish!
By Hakuryu on 5/17/2013 3:45:47 PM , Rating: 3
Better than killing off species so corporate managers can get bigger bonuses.

Funny how people can rail against big corporations and how evil they are, yet add an owl, fish, or mammal to the story and everybody's upset about how something so 'trivial' halts human production.

RE: Think of the jellyfish!
By mikeyD95125 on 5/17/2013 4:07:45 PM , Rating: 2
Seems reasonable. Humans try to take my stuff. Jellyfish just chill.

RE: Think of the jellyfish!
By weskurtz0081 on 5/17/2013 5:09:49 PM , Rating: 3
It doesn't look like Jellyfish are anywhere near extinction, actually it's quite the opposite!

Many scientists believe that jellyfish, particularly jellyfish swarms or blooms, are on the increase worldwide, turning up in regions where they never existed before.

RE: Think of the jellyfish!
By bah12 on 5/17/2013 5:12:30 PM , Rating: 2
But but What about the light-fin-short-tentacle-purpleeyed-northsea jelly. It doesn't matter if the Thames fills up with other jellys' if THIS subspecies is on decline....

/sarcasm and made up jelly species

RE: Think of the jellyfish!
By M'n'M on 5/18/2013 9:46:12 AM , Rating: 4
As I was covering my english muffin this AM I thought "What if this is made of light-fin-short-tentacle-purple-eyed-northsea jelly ?" But then I checked the label. It clearly stated :

100% light-fin-short-tentacle-purple-eyed-northsea jelly free.

Article gets released to publishing...
By cherrycoke on 5/17/2013 3:41:55 PM , Rating: 5
...despite to editing issues.

RE: Article gets released to publishing...
By mattclary on 5/17/13, Rating: -1
By Breathless on 5/17/2013 4:16:59 PM , Rating: 4
That was on purpose captain obvious.

Glaring Typo
By rangerdavid on 5/19/2013 12:35:11 PM , Rating: 2

..And three days later, a glaring typo remains uncorrected in title of article. C'mon, guys...

RE: Glaring Typo
By sleepeeg3 on 5/19/2013 5:27:11 PM , Rating: 2
How else would you know it was a Jason Mick article? I just clicked to confirm that I was right. Prewreeding he not does do.

Arctic Circle Data Centers
By Ammohunt on 5/17/2013 5:52:06 PM , Rating: 2
That would be cool if the majority of data center were centralized in the north or south. They could use the waste heat to heat green houses.

Math issue?
By trisct on 5/21/2013 2:52:28 PM , Rating: 2
So if it costs $1M annually to cool a 1MW load, and $5.4M annually to cool a 5.5MW load, that's $0.1M saved, not $1M.

Seems like the price of cooling hasn't changed - or were they quoting pricing on the same seawater system at the start and end of the project? I didn't see any other cost numbers to demonstrate the $1M savings.

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