With the growth of the internet and the inherent need for data storage, NREL’s new energy efficient data center makes perfect sense. Of course, who would you expect to install such a center except the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL]?
The role of the NREL isn’t only to develop renewable energy, but also more efficient ways to use energy. If you think about the heat that comes off your laptop or desktop computer, then multiply that a million times, then you might begin to understand the difficulties involved in making a data center more energy efficient. Computer generate heat, but they cannot operate under too much heat, or else suffer failure. To manage the heat, most data centers use air-conditioning systems to cool the air.
NREL’s new energy efficient data center is taking a different approach to waste heat, starting first with a warm-water cooling system. Water is a much more efficient transporter of heat energy, entering at 75°F and leaving at just over 100°F. Cooling the water by 25°F is much less energy intensive than air-conditioning systems. NREL estimates they may save $800,000 annually by opting for cooling towers over compressor-based cooling systems.
Another way recover heat was found by circulating it through the office spaces, sidewalks, and parking lots. NREL estimates that they can save an additional $200,000 annually on office heating and snow plowing. As the demand for data continues to soar, efficient data centers like NREL’s will become more commonplace, and as we continue to make the switch to renewable energy sources, data centers will contribute less to climate change than they do now.