Finland : how to reduce the energy produced by a datacenter? The innovative example of the Uspenski “heating Cathedral”

energy efficiency, data center, electrical consumption Under the orthodox Cathedral of Uspenski, a very famous monument of Helsinki, is hiding one of the most innovative places in the world. A huge cave, built as a shelter during the Second World War is accommodating nowadays a datacenter belonging to the Finnish operator Academica. It is presented as the most energy-efficient of the planet.

What are its distinctive features ? Energy-efficiency has been a consideration of utmost importance since the very first reflection, and not only at the end of a project. A predetermined orientation that requires to evaluate the intrinsic constraints of the center under a new perspective: the efficiency of the entire energetic cycle is considered. This is what motivated the original choice of the spot: the cave, naturally fresh, allows to limit the electric consumption of cooling systems (which can account for until 40% of the complete electric consumption of the center). Indeed datacenters can consume much as electricity as a city of 50.000 inhabitants. The operator also chose the most energy-efficient material for each element of its infrastructure, like Eaton uninterruptible power supplies, that allow adjusting very precisely the electricity supplied, in terms of needs.

However the Finnish extended their reflection. The heat produced by the infrastructures is reintroduced in urban heating system of the neighborhood! Cold water, pumped from the see (SWAC system) is heating up on contact with the facilities of which it absorbs the calories. Instead of being dumped in the sea, this water is introduced in the urban heating system thanks to a heating exchanger, which allows heating about 1000 flats of 90m²! This system is a perfect illustration of the concept of energy-efficiency: both thrifty and ameliorated, so that each energy “effort” is useful (consumed electricity in order to operate the center has a double purpose).

Unique in the world until now, this kind of facility might well grow in number. Along with the increase of energy costs, economic considerations have become fundamental to operators that seem to be more and more worried about energy-efficiency. Like Facebook in Sweden, that uses the outdoor cold air to limit its “artificial” cooling needs. According to John R. Thome, interviewed by Les Echos (12/04/2010), datacenters electric consumption is increasing exponentially. “This way, in 2100, only one datacenter will require the entire electricity produced in the United States”, mentioned the professor of the laboratory of heat and mass transfer at the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne.

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