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Going Green with Data Center Sites Requires Homework


This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is to take an in-depth look at the green benefits of a location when selecting a site for a data center.

Selecting a green site for a data center focuses on the amount of annual free cooling, reliable electrical grids, and the availability of existing buildings versus greenfield data centers.

Locating a data center within an area that is dry and cool will offer the most opportunity to take advantage of free cooling much of the year. States such as Oregon and Washington offer hydroelectricity, which offers power at $.02 to $.03 per kilowatt-hour, in addition to abundant free cooling thanks to weather conditions.

Other areas of the country that are gaining recognition for hosting data centers because of their cool temperatures are Colorado, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Another green site selection feature is to locate your data center within a reliable power grid that has sufficient capacity. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to begin regulating carbon emissions, and if the United States follows the example of the United Kingdom, penalties for carbon emissions may apply. Therefore, the location of a new data center should also consider climates that will help reduce generator runtimes. The three states that have the most data centers also have the most annual power outages. California leads the United States with 508 annual outages, followed by New York with 176 and Texas with 145.

The second step in site selection is the decision of whether to use an existing building or a new one. If you're planning to try for a LEED certification, the reuse of an existing building is preferable. However, few buildings satisfy data center requirements, which include 150-pounds-per-square-foot minimum floor load, a hardened shell, concrete deck roof structures, and 14-foot floor-to-ceiling heights, as well as land to support fuel tanks and thermal storage tanks.

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