Google Using Thermal Batteries to Cool Data Center

Turning from SEO specifically, we are going to look at a pressing issue that affects every IT-related business: the environmental impact of technology. Many times we think that computers can only be beneficial for the environment: we can telecommute and save fuel; we can Skype with friends instead of driving or hopping a plane to see them; we can purchase products online instead of going to a physical store.

All of this is true, but it is also true that the global IT community accounts for 2 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions – or about the same as the aviation industry. Google is using a new method to tackle the issue in its Taiwan data center.

We picture computers and the internet as being very clean and green; but data centers are like that semi in front of you that is belching out toxic black smoke. They require tremendous energy and cost to cool. Google, and other companies, have been wrestling with ways to reduce imprint. In their Belgium data center, which is the most efficient, Google uses fresh air for cooling so it does not have to run massive chilling equipment. The problem is that the facility is 35˚C and humans have to retreat to separate areas that are climate controlled.

In Taiwan, Google plans to cool their facility (still in construction) using thermal energy storage. How will this work? They will run the AC systems at night, when rates are lower, and cool insulated tanks that are filled with ice or coolant. During the day, those tanks dissipate heat. Some describe these tanks as “thermal batteries.”

This is the first of Google’s data centers (6 in the US, 2 in Europe, and soon to be 3 in Asia) to use thermal energy. In other facilities, they use sea water and sewage water so they are not diverting the population’s potable water resources. eBay has also started to use alternative methods to cool its data center; it maintains hot temperatures in the facility (up to 47˚C) so it can use hot water from natural sources for cooling. The water is naturally about 30˚C, and even at this temperature, it is cool enough to do the job.

Google’s Taiwan data center is set to open in 2013.

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