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Swedish Data Center Saves $1M a Year Using Seawater For Cooling 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the deep-bluse-sea dept.
alphadogg writes "A data center in Sweden has cut its energy bills by a million dollars a year using seawater to cool its servers, though jellyfish are an occasional hazard. Interxion, a collocation company in the Netherlands that rents data center space in 11 countries, uses water pumped from the Baltic Sea to cool the IT equipment at its facilities in Stockholm. The energy used to cool IT equipment is one of the costliest areas of running a data center. Companies have traditionally used big, mechanical chillers, but some are turning to outside air and evaporative techniques as lower-cost alternatives."
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Swedish Data Center Saves $1M a Year Using Seawater For Cooling

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  • That'll shut them down eventually.

  • by andjeng (2799457)
    how about efficiency?
  • by MoFoQ (584566) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:42AM (#43748933)

    So...from the article:

    Before Interxion started the project, its energy bills were about $2.6 million a year to cool 1 megawatt of IT load. Today, its energy bill is $5.4 million to cool 5.5 megawatts of IT load, meaning the system has saved it about $1 million a year.

    So "today" per 1MW of IT load, it would cost $5.4million / 5.5MW or $981818.18 ( 54/55 million $ per MW or 0.981818182 x million $ per MW)
    $2.6 million - $0.98 million > $1 million

    Now, if he wanted to cool 5.5MW of IT load, it would cost him $14.3 million with the old method vs $5.4 million with the seawater method.
    Even if you account for the cost of the third-party...$14.3 million vs $5.4 million is a big difference.

    • by shitzu (931108) on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:25AM (#43750101)

      Strangest thing is - Sweden is a relatively cold country where people pay for heating. And for hot water in the summertime. Can't all this excess (heat)energy be put to good use instead of dumping it to the sea?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mtempsch (524313)
        Some [suitably located] data centers, for instance this one [www.idg.se], in Sweden do pump heat into the "remote heat" (fjärrvärme) grid [wikipedia.org], which then goes out to individual homes, apartment buildings etc
      • by mikael (484) on Friday May 17, 2013 @08:53AM (#43750897)

        Some rural industrial estates were using their hot air from their cooling systems to grow plants.

        One placed I worked in had the external parts of their air conditioning in a ground level sheltered car park. The heat was so incredible, that you could comfortably walk around in this bubble of warm air in a T-shirt or short-sleeve in the middle of Winter. The only was homeless people wandering by and building makeshift tents around one or more of the units in winter, tripping various CPU temperature alarms.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by petermgreen (876956)

        Not easilly.

        Computers typically use air cooling, the exhaust temperature of a computer is not very far above the intake temperature and the intake temperature is typically arround normal room temperature or lower. So the exhaust temperature is likely to be barely above normal room temperature making moving the heat arround difficult.

        You could raise the intake temperature to the computers but doing so would have significant disadvantages. Firstly it would reduce the ammount of time you had between cooling eq

      • RTFA. . .especially this paragraph: "The water enters the first facility at 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) and exits at 53.6 F (12 C). It's pumped to a second site, which it leaves at 64.4 F (18 C), and a third, which it leaves at 75.2 F (24 C). It's then sent to a heat pump and used to heat local homes and offices."
    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      Perhaps they're including the initial installation cost, averaged out of the next few years.
  • So instead of warming the atmosphere, they're warming the seawater.

    Cuts to the chase neatly that. Let's all of us dump our excess heat into the ocean and see how if works out better in the long haul.

    No free lunch.

    • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:53AM (#43748991)

      Let's all of us dump our excess heat into the ocean and see how if works out better in the long haul.

      The article said the warm water is sent to heat pumps to warm up houses in the town. They don't say if they are able to bring the temperature back down to the original levels or not, or even if the water is pumped back into the ocean.

      • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:23AM (#43749805)

        Most thermal systems, be it in cogeneration/district heating, or even traditional power stations, still end up dumping some residual heat as waste into the environment.
        It seems nuts, but it gets to a point where the temperature differential/gradient is simply not enough to justify an industrial process to recover the heat efficiently.
        For example, if you were trying to heat your house with water that was only a few degrees above ambient, well, you'd probably not be very happy.

        Still, sometimes it works out OK, like the example (in France, from memory), where waste heat from a nuclear reactor is used to heat ponds to grow tropical shrimps, and greenhouses for fruit.

        By the time the water finally returns to the river, thermal impact is virtually zero, minimising local ecological disruption.

    • by goodmanj (234846) on Friday May 17, 2013 @01:54AM (#43748999)

      Read the article: after leaving the data center, the heat is sent to a heat pump where it's used to heat houses.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      So instead of dispersing the heat in the air directly (plus the heat generated by the chillers) It is used to heat houses. Even if the warmed water was dumped directly into the sea it would make little difference in the temperature of the water.

    • by GNious (953874)

      Recent articles point to Denmark (ca next to sweden) as having issues that fishermen are getting swordfish and other tropical species in their nets as by-catch, while the normal (local) fishies are moving north - all due to shift in the water temperature.

    • by Beorytis (1014777)
      Although no new permits are issued for it, several buildings in downtown Chicago have legacy systems that reject heat from cooling systems into the Chicago river. Some of these buildings were clients at my former employer. At the downstream end of downtown (i.e. the south Wacker/south Riverside Plaza buildings) the water temperature in the river got into the 90s (fahrenheit).
  • All prepared for hosting the Pirate Bay! YARRRRR!
  • It doesn't pump seawater directly through its cooling systems. Instead, the seawater goes to a heat exchanger where it's used to cool fresh water. It has to clean the exchanger fairly regularly, but Coors said it's a simple maintenance job.

    The kind of job any bartender [slashdot.org] will be soon very happy to do for the dole.

    But it had to run the chillers only a few hours last year, Coors said, when the government ordered its partner to stop pumping seawater. Coors isn't certain why that was, but he believes it's for environmental reasons. "I think it's to protect the jellyfish," he said.

    In Norway:
    1. the govt has a partner
    2. the jelly fish have govt protection only a few hours each year.

    (note: Poe's law suggest a smiley. Here it is: *big-grin* )

    • by jopsen (885607)

      In Norway:
      1. the govt has a partner
      2. the jelly fish have govt protection only a few hours each year.

      Exactly how did you deduce that from an article about a data center in Sweden ?

  • I hope they hired a marine engineer to work out the anti-fouling issues. The system may work great now, but in a couple months every single surface exposed to seawater will be covered with barnacles and algae. The article mentions cleaning heat exchangers as part of maintenance, but some of this crap can't be scrubbed off without a chisel.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Sydney Opera House has done this for many years. The harbour water creates a water-cooled heat pump for the AC. Sacrificial anodes work well and piping seems fine since construction.
      • by pijokela (462279)

        I've been to Australia and the water in the Pacific is nothing compared to the water in Baltic Sea. It is a green putrid mess compared to the clear ocean water. Baltic Sea has so low salt concentration that all kinds of green stuff and weed live in it really well. All the nitrogen from farm lands also plays in to this.

        So, the problems in Australia and Sweden might be quite different.

    • by petman (619526)
      You have the wrong idea on what a marine engineer does. A marine engineer is involved in engineering of boats, ships, oil rigs and similar sea-going vessels. What you want is a water engineer.
      • Any mechanical engineer worth their salt knows there's been a variety of problems with heat exchangers and seawater for the last century+ and knows to start looking for available solutions.
    • I hope they hired a marine engineer to work out the anti-fouling issues. The system may work great now, but in a couple months every single surface exposed to seawater will be covered with barnacles and algae.

      The OTEC guys say that biofouling only occurs in their heat exchangers that are exposed to surface water. I don't know if that is because of the temperature of the water or because of a lack of organisms in the deeper water. But since these data center guys only care about cold water which they can get from the deep, they don't have to deal with the most of the problems typically associated with sea water.

      http://www.otecnews.org/portal/otec-articles/ocean-thermal-energy-conversion-otec-by-l-a-vega-ph-d/#e [otecnews.org]

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      The system may work great now, but in a couple months every single surface exposed to seawater will be covered with barnacles and algae. The article mentions cleaning heat exchangers as part of maintenance, but some of this crap can't be scrubbed off without a chisel.

      This is a problem which has had a worked solution for at least 50 years. The largest and one of the oldest running oil refineries (built in the 50s) in Australia has used seawater for cooling since the beginning. They have orders of magnitude more heat exchangers and larger heat loads, not to mention complicated metallurgical requirements to boot. In comparison using a water to closed loop coolant system is a walk in the park engineering wise.

      Back then they didn't do heat recovery though minimal effort is m

  • by Nutria (679911) on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:01AM (#43749031)

    Back when our basement data center housed 70s and 80s era IBM mainframes and their accoutrement (a dozen or so tape drives and a huge 3380 farm) , the building vented cold upstate NY winter air into the DC.

    A few years after the final ECL mainframes and 3380s were replaced by "z" mainframes and EMC SANs, the vent was blocked up.

    • by Nexus7 (2919)

      AC units for data centers can be ordered with economizers, which will vent outside air in when there's enough cooling potential. They will filter it, etc.

      Interestingly enough, these units have to be freeze-rated also.

  • I am routinely a bit confused as to why datacenters aren't predominantly located in places with colder climates. Free cooling from the outside during the winter and whatnot. Is there simply a lack of infrastructure to make an ultrahigh-bandwidth line out to...say...northern Montana?
    • by heypete (60671)

      I am routinely a bit confused as to why datacenters aren't predominantly located in places with colder climates. Free cooling from the outside during the winter and whatnot. Is there simply a lack of infrastructure to make an ultrahigh-bandwidth line out to...say...northern Montana?

      Basically, yeah.

      A lot of the networks have expanded where there's people: early networks grew up around universities and government facilities (often located in or near major population centers), companies later grew up (or migrated to) where the tech people were, and things more or less grew organically from there.

      Take a look at Level3 [level3.com]'s network map for the US: there's a lot of facilities in areas where there's a lot of population: SF Bay Area, Los Angeles, New England, etc. Florida has more than I would o

      • Florida makes a good deal of sense. It's a convenient jump across the Caribbean, so it makes sense to have at least some infrastructure in the area. Florida also has a large population and is relatively densely populated - something like 4th and 9th in the nation, respectively.
  • by OhANameWhatName (2688401) on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:18AM (#43749111)
    Use the seawater to cool the servers directly rather than using the seawater to cool the nuclear power plant which generates the electricity to power the cooling. So it's got to be a bit of a win for the environment too right? Improved thermal efficiency is a good thing.

    Nice to see a plan which is a win for the environment on top of being a money saver.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      The power plant side of the equation is unchanged: the energy it creates depends on there being a temperature gradient.

  • Nothing special (Score:4, Informative)

    by Guspaz (556486) on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:25AM (#43749151) Homepage

    This isn't exactly unique or special. [wikipedia.org] Most of downtown Toronto is covered by the cooling grid from one such deep-water lake cooling systems, and I know of at least one datacenter (one of if not the most critical in the country) that uses the service.

  • It's not that salty (Score:5, Informative)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:45AM (#43749233) Homepage
    The Baltic Sea [wikipedia.org] isn't anywhere near as salty as it sounds. There are so many rivers emptying into it that parts of it, especially in the northern part, are very close to fresh water, and most (if not all) of the fish there are fresh water species. That's why, back in the Viking days, people in that area had to buy salt from mines in what's now Poland, instead of getting it from the sea as most other maritime areas do. This simplifies things tremendously, because they don't have to worry anywhere near as much about corrosion from the salt.
  • by Dtyst (790737) on Friday May 17, 2013 @02:51AM (#43749247)
    In March 2009, Google purchased the Summa Mill from Finnish paper company Stora Enso and converted the 60 year old paper mill into a data center.
    http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/inside/locations/hamina/ [google.com]
    Here is a video about Googles sea water cooling system:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VChOEvKicQQ [youtube.com]
  • by nblender (741424) on Friday May 17, 2013 @07:51AM (#43750481)

    I'm not using sea-water so maybe this is only tangentially interesting ... The water that comes out of my 10gpm well is at 8C. When I had my new forced-air furnace installed, I asked the installer to put in an evaporator coil to prepare for future air-conditioning... Cost me an extra $180. Later I removed the orifice, hooked up a solenoid valve wired to my furnace. I plumbed well water through the evaporator coil and directed the waste water outside to an outdoor faucet which, in the summer, is hooked up to soaker hoses to water the flower beds... The plants like the warmish water and, while not terribly efficient cooling, it does manage to keep the inside of the house below 22C when outside temps are over 30C... The house has a lot of solar heat load due to big windows with mountain views on the west side and even with awnings up, would get excruciatingly hot without some cooling assistance... My only operating cost is the electricity to pull the water out of the ground

    I could probably make better use of the waste water by sprinkling it on the roof before collecting from the eaves and doing drip irrigation on the flower beds, but that will be a project for another year.

    (This is in Southern Alberta)

  • ...and wants his water back.

    Patrick........!!

  • I mean, all this heat is just going to vanish into the environment, right?

    • by idontgno (624372)

      So your answer is... turn it off? Turn it all off? Sit shivering in the dark?

      No, wait, that's not enough. Sitting shivering in the dark is STILL dumping heat into the environment.

      DIE! Yeah, that's the ticket. No metabolism means no metabolic waste heat. (Assuming you'll forgive us our methane and CO2 output as we decompost. I promise it's only momentary. Humanit will no longer be responsible for ANY environmental warming within a few weeks after we've extincted our entire race to make you feel better.)

      You m

      • Basic answer?

        It's too late- we are screwed.

        Real answer? Get the human population down to about 3 billion and live with a lot of freedom and prosperity. Continue down the same path and look at rationed water, cramped living quarters, lower quality food. And when we do have something bad, we'll have a tremendous die off.

        Look- wind power has now been shown to reduce the winds (and affect the climate). And seriously... DUH? You are extracting huge amounts of energy from the wind- it's going to affect the w

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