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DataBank’s Adaptive Approach to Going Green

Data centers consume tremendous amounts of electricity to power their servers, storage equipment, back-ups, and power cooling infrastructure. Last year alone, U.S. based data centers used more than 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, representing three percent of total U.S. electricity consumption. And that usage is growing.  As an operator of 20 data centers across the U.S., DataBank is keenly aware of its environmental impact. 

DataBank’s Indianapolis data centers were the first to be 100% powered by renewable sources. Both IND1 and IND2 moved 100 percent of their combined electricity usage into a voluntary program that directs Indianapolis Power and Light to purchase renewable energy from wind farms and other midwestern facilities.  Through that program, DataBank will offset the carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 3,321 passenger cars driven for one year, or 84 railroad cars of coal burned.  Participants in the Indianapolis program help support the development of additional renewable energy sources, thereby helping to reduce reliance on fossil-fueled power.

In addition, DataBank recently announced that its MSP2 data center in Minneapolis is now 100% powered by renewable wind sources as part of the Wellspring program offered by Dakota Electric. Through the program, DataBank will purchase enough wind-generated power to cover all of MSPs 6MW power requirements for the next 5 years.

Another technique includes using an area’s native climate to help cool inherently hot data centers. Called “economizer systems”, the method is being used at data centers in DFW, MSP, ATL and SLC. Sensors measure the outside air temperature and humidity, and if conditions are appropriate, they open air dampeners to allow outside air in to cool the facility. Much like opening a window at your house on a nice day.

When it comes to the heat given off by data centers, DataBank realized that heat had value in other infrastructures. DataBank’s ATL1 hosts the Georgia Tech “liquid cooled” supercomputer, which offers high performance computing to the institution’s faculty, professors, research scientists, graduate students, and its academic and government affiliates.  A water-cooled door chilling system in ATL1 affords DataBank the ability to scale up to 100kW per cabinet without having to take up additional space for cooling.  And in a singular twist, the heat and waste energy from the supercomputer is transferred to the chilled water, which then reaches 90 degrees and is then supplied to the building’s boilers for use by the other tenants.

Also at ATL1, in partnership with the local utility, Georgia Power, DataBank has deployed a 1.5MW “microgrid” to support Georgia Tech’s High Performance Computing Center (HPCC). The microgrid runs in parallel to Georgia Power’s grid as an additional power source for ATL1. It senses power consumption and can export power to the facility in an emergency or simply at peak times to save costs.

These are just a few of the ways DataBank is adapting and evolving the data center experience to provide better service for our customers and a better result for our environment.


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