Identifying cheaper ways to deal with data center waste heat

December 20, 2011

The millions of financial transactions, e-mail and online videos that may be coursing through the circuitry of a massive computer server farm at any given moment generate a significant amount of heat.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Alfonso Ortega, a Villanova University professor of energy technology, the internet generates a huge amount of waste heat. By some estimates, 3 percent of the nation's electricity is devoted to computer processing and data centers.

The news source reported that the cost of cooling the equipment nearly equals the cost of keeping the computers operational.

"People started to pay attention when companies said, 'Wow, unbelievable, we're now eating up half of our costs just to keep this thing cool,'" Ortega told the Inquirer.

Ortega is working with a team to help identify a more efficient way to cool a building or data center, including developing sensors to identify the hottest servers to target with cooling.

According to the news source, some companies have begun to move their operations to facilities in cool northern latitudes in order to minimize the heat at their respective data centers.

One of these facilities is the Philadelphia Technology Park (PTP), a 25,700-square-foot data center that is located in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. PTP was built for the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, but after an acquisition of the exchange the ownership changed hands.

The Inquirer reported that PTP President Corey Blanton is working with the new owners to make the facility as efficient as possible, and new methods are practiced to help limit the heat that is generated at the site.

The Philadelphia Navy Yard is a historic venue that is also home to the headquarters of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC). The site is not only located in the economically vital Greater Philadelphia region, but has the capacity for expanded research, campus, residential and commercial developments.

The GPIC was designated as an Energy Innovation HUB by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop innovative energy efficient building technologies, designs and systems. The GPIC will use Greater Philadelphia's substantial building stock to validate and deploy discoveries that were made at the site.

The GPIC will also rely on technical expertise of the region's citizens to sustain a viable research and depolment HUB, as there are 92 colleges and universities located in the area.