With data centers facing increased scrutiny for their carbon footprint, the news that California is paving the way for data center cooling technology that saves water could be welcomed news for the nation.
It’s possible that more states could follow in the footsteps of California, where building regulators recently allowed data center operators to install economization systems that bypass the use of water, insteading using specialized refrigerant fluid as a medium for trading heat with the exterior environment.
Previously, the California Building Standards Code required data centers to use economizers that pull outside air into the building or use water to transfer heat outside.
“You’re going to see a lot of new technologies come out like this,” predicted John Peter Valiulis, a marketing executive for Emerson Network Power, which had lobbied for the change. He said already there has been a lot of interest in the technology, which could pave the way for more innovation.
Based on an independent study, Emerson’s refrigerant-based system not only eliminates the need to use water in free cooling it also uses less energy than a water-side economizer in a majority of the state’s climate zones. In addition to California, the system has been deployed at about 50 sites throughout North America, the United Kingdom and Australia.
According to studies, water consumption is considered the second largest natural resource concern facing data centers — just behind power. A mid-size data center, for example, will use up to 130 million gallons of water a year annual for cooling — about the same amount of water used by three average-sized hospitals. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, attention is primarily focused on decreasing data centers’ use of power as an environmental e.
Up until now, most efforts to ease the use of water resources have focused on harvesting rainwater, reusing dirty water, or digging wells, according to the WSJ. Also, some data centers use waterless cooling units, but they could potentially require the use of more power.
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