06-26-13 | Blog Post
Any data center can become greener by incorporating energy efficiency efforts such as hot/cold aisle configuration, equipment monitoring, upgrading to more efficient equipment, or read other strategies in Data Center Efficiency Part One and Part Two. But Michigan data centers are naturally greener than other U.S. data centers because of their geographical location.
Michigan – A Green State
Michigan has a multitude of natural resources that Michigan data centers can use for free cooling, use water for cooling and wind for alternative power.
Using Cool Temperatures for Free Cooling – We have seen more and more data centers being built in colder environments to take advantage of free cooling. With year-round cool temperatures, Michigan data centers do not need to rely heavily on powered cooling and can utilize free cooling 90% of the time.
The average heating degree day for Michigan is 62 degrees, says Yan Ness in Online Tech’s Michigan Data Centers Use Free Cooling. According to Energylens’ website, degree days are used to simplify historical outside air temperature data and commonly used among energy consultants and energy managers. A heating degree day (HDD) is a measurement of how much and how long the air temperature was lower than a specific base temperature.
Since free cooling begins around 50 degrees, Michigan data centers can utilize free cooling about 90% of the time. This helps Michigan data centers to run more energy efficient than other data centers in warmer U.S. regions.
Cool Waters Make Cool Data Centers – Data centers are still looking to water to help keep cool their buildings. “Water has between 50 and 1,000 times the capacity to remove heat than air,” says Clive Longbottom of UK Analyst Quocirca Ltd.
In the future, Michigan data centers have a great opportunity to use water as an alternative cooling source. Michigan has more coastline than any other state other than Alaska, equaling 3,288 miles. Michigan is also surrounded by 6 quadrillion gallons of water (one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water) with an average water temperature of 68 F.
Wind: A Powerful Resource – I previously researched the opportunity for Michigan data centers using wind as an alternative power source. Large companies like Google and Apple have begun to invest in this renewable energy resource.
As Mlive reported, Michigan has installed more wind capacity last year than most other states. And power companies such as DTE Energy have constructed wind farms in Michigan’s thumb region. Although it may be unpractical for Michigan data centers to build their own wind farms, they can work with local Michigan utility companies to supply wind-generated power to their data centers.
As a general rule of thumb any data center is greener than traditional small to medium companies. However, Michigan data centers can take advantage of the cool weather while other data centers located elsewhere simply can not. This allows Michigan data centers to run more efficiently and provide high availability while incorporating green practices. And not all data centers are able to accomplish that.