In order to more efficiently control the computer room temperature at its new facility in Vancouver, Canadian telecommunications provider Telus will channel excess heat generated at its data center into a nearby high rise complex to warm the building and to provide residents with hot water.
Telus Garden, a $750 million mixed use development in downtown Vancouver, will have 80 percent of its heating and cooling needs met from heat trapped from the data center's hot aisles. All of the facility's hot water will be generated from this system as well, Data Center Knowledge reported.
"The TELUS Garden District Energy System represents a shift in how we think about and utilize energy," said Andrea Goertz, senior vice president of Telus Strategic Initiatives and Communications, according to the news source. "By recovering energy that would normally be lost and putting it to good use, we are innovating through design to create one of the most environmentally-friendly urban communities in North America."
While this may be the first such computer room temperature channeling system in Vancouver, it is not the world's first attempt at temperature monitoring via heat redistribution, Data Center Knowledge reported. For example, a London-based data center has been warming nearby buildings since 2009, and a facility operated by IBM in Switzerland keeps a local municipal swimming pool warm.
Why new computer room temperature monitoring systems are so important
Although the Telus Garden plan may be one of only a handful of similar system configurations worldwide at the moment, this innovative strategy may become more popular in the future as data center operators struggle to rein in rising energy costs.
Data centers can use up enormous amounts of energy. Globally, server room facilities require the yield of approximately 17 1,000-megawatt power plants, according to the University of Toronto. This load is equivalent to about 1 percent of the world's total energy output.
Much of the energy distributed to servers and other pieces of computer room equipment is later released as heat. As a result, data centers' temperatures can rise quickly if internal environmental conditions are not monitored. For example, the temperatures inside Google's data center facility in Belgium can be above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, Data Center Knowledge reported last year.
This heat, if not controlled and monitored, can cause the very equipment responsible for its generation to break down. As such, computer room temperature monitoring has become one of the most important tasks for data center operators.
However, traditional methods for keeping facilities cool - using air conditioning units - require large amounts of electricity. Heating and cooling can be responsible for anywhere between 33 percent and 50 percent of a data center's annual electricity needs, according to the University of Toronto. In addition, a 30,000 square feet facility that uses 10 MW of energy can spend up to $8 million every year on cooling costs alone.
To better control rising cooling costs, data center owners may want to consider channeling excess heat in a way similar to what Telus has elected to do. For a more immediate and cost effective solution, facilities operators should leverage a temperature sensor-based system to monitor computer room temperature and electricity usage.