03-20-13 | Blog Post

Michigan – The Next Cool Thing for Data Centers

Blog Posts

Keeping cool is the number one cost for data centers.  With rows and rows of servers and equipment producing heat, data centers have traditionally been cooled by using air conditioning.  This is an inefficient way to cool data centers and consumes a lot of power.

As energy costs continue to rise, CIOs and data center managers are looking at all possibilities to become more energy efficient.

An interesting trend to lower data center cooling costs is building data centers in regions that offer cool bodies of water and cooler air temperatures.  In 2011, Google built a data center in Hamina, Finland to take advantage of the cold climate and proximity to the Baltic Sea.  The data center facility is one of the most advanced and efficient Google data centers.

The environmentally-friendly data center uses sea water to cool its servers.  The data center brings in cool water using an inlet pipe and the water is pumped through the data center and run into exchangers to disperse heat from the servers.  The warm water is mixed with the cool water and put back into the sea at a similar temperature in which it entered the system.  The seawater cooling system is the only cooling system in Google’s data center.

In recent years, data center operators have look to “free cooling” to help improve efficiencies.  Free cooling uses the cool outside air to support the cooling systems.  Google also built another data center in Saint-Ghislain, Belgium to take advantage of it’s cool temperatures.  By using free cooling,  Google has eliminated air conditioning or chillers entirely.

Michigan – A Cool Place to Be
To help lower data center energy costs, Google decided to build their data centers in Northern European.  However, what if an organization wants to build their data center in the United States?  I say they should look no further than the state of Michigan.  Michigan offers abundant natural resources, a lengthy coastline and cool temperatures – all which can be used to build green data centers.

Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes, which contains 6 quadrillion gallons of water (one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water).  And Michigan’s coastline equals 3,288 miles, which is more coastline than any state other than Alaska.(1)

If a company is looking to use water to cool their data center, there is no place better than to use Michigan’s Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes’ average water temperature is 68o F and in certain areas in Lake Michigan the average temperature is a chilly 63o F – and that is in July.  And there is Michigan’s coastline.  Data centers could not be built on every square inch of the coastline, but there is great potential.

If a data center wants to implement free cooling, Michigan’s climate also offers many positives. Detroit, Michigan’s average temperature is 49o F degrees, ranging from 23o F in January and 72o F in July.  In the northern Michigan peninsula the average temperature is colder with a daily mean of 40o F, ranging from 13o F in January to 64o F in July.(2)  With cool temperatures year-round, Michigan data centers could use free cooling all year long.

I believe that Michigan can offer many benefits that other states can’t offer.  Anyone who is considering building a data center must look at alternative cooling options, like free cooling, to help lower energy costs.  And Michigan is the “cool” place to be.

1 Great Lakes Basin brochure, 1990, Michigan Sea Grant
2 http://www.city-data.com/states/Michigan-Climate.html

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