Seawater to Cool Google’s Finland Data Center

May 27, 2011 / William Thomson, Green Homes Expert

Google Inc. has bared plans to transform its data center in Finland into the world’s first seawater-cooled data center.

Seawater to Cool Google’s Finland Data Center

The project will set out this fall according to the search giant. The plan to serve live traffic from the data center while cooling the place was discussed by Google’s Joe Kava at the second Data Center Efficiency Summit in Zurich, Switzerland last Tuesday.

Google has been developing solar thermal receivers, among its pioneering experiments. Earlier this week, it also announced the green transformation of its Ann Arbor office in Michigan with the addition of solar panels, a greenhouse, and a rooftop outdoor green space.

Google has bought a former paper mill in Finland in 2009 to realize the seawater-cooled data center. The building’s large quarter-mile long seawater tunnels would be used to provide a vessel by which seawater is carried up to cool the data center.

In the past, seawater has also been used to cool its previous manufacturing systems through the former paper mill, but cooling a data center with the same technology is a novel idea.

The complex filtration systems for the seawater-cooled data center will use titanium for its plates since it is not easily corrosive when kept in contact with the seawater.

And as the systems need to be cleaned some time, Google is working hard to make that possible without interrupting its 24/7 operations.

Cooling systems center on heat transfer units, to which the seawater will be pumped to cool the data center.

When pumping back to the sea the water that entered the system, Google desires to keep its temperature as is on the entrance to minimize its impact on the ecosystem.

To this end, Google has studied extensively the tides, plant life, and seasons of the surrounding coastal area using a thermal modelling over a 30-year period. Subsequently, the search giant has gained insights into where the seawater should come from and where it should be pumped out.

According to Kava, the plan is economical due to the large scale of the data center. Otherwise, the economics of the project would have been unfavorable to Google considering the building’s location, which is a misfit for a seawater-cooled data center in other areas.

As of this time, Google could not establish the exact PUE (a measurement for efficiency) for the prospective seawater-cooled data center. But Kava said it might span from 1.1 to 1.2.

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