Wiltshire Mines To Hold Record-Breaking Green Data Centre

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Ark Continuity is opening a green data centre which will ultimately use stone mines and nuclear bunkers to set efficiency records.

Data centre builder Ark Continuity is building a data centre which it promises will ultimately use underground stone mines and nuclear bunkers to set efficiency records for shared data centres.

The first phase of the data centre in Spring Park, Corsham, Wiltshire, will open in November 2009, with a modular structure that gives users their own space in a sustainable data centre which will have a PUE (power usage effectiveness) of 1.5 – compared to a national average of 2.2.

Following that, further phases will use Victorian stone mines and Cold War bunkers below the site with undergound cooling, to go even further, according to Phillip (“Pip”) Squire, project and engineering director of Ark Continuity.

“The next stage of development will prove to be one of the most energy-
efficient data facilities in the world – achieving a PUE of under 1.2 without introducing fresh-air into the data rooms,” said Mr Squire at yesterday’s Government ICT Goes Green event in London. “At the heart of the design is the use of a vast secure underground space at a stable temperature of 9C, and an aquifer.

PUE measures the proportion of data centre’s power that is actually used for in the servers, as opposed to cooling and light. The national average is 2.2, but a private data centre, run by oil company PGS in Weybridge already claims a PUE of 1.2, which, according to our interview with the builder, Keysource, also does not use fresh air from outside the building.

PUE should not be used to compare date centres, says the Green Grid, which invented the measure, as it relies on too many other variables such as climate. However, Ark has signed up to the EU code of conduct for sustainable data centres, and a low PUE should be a factor in gaining business – as businesses will be required to account for their carbon footprint in 2011.

The Romans quarried stone from Spring Park, but underground mining began when Sir Isambard Kingdom Brunel drove the Great Western Railway through a tunnel there on its way from London to Bristol, and discovered a thick underground seam of limestone.

This stone was mined until the 1920s, and the mine was re-purposed as an underground factory in World War II, where 25,000 workers built aircraft engines. After the war it became a government nuclear bunker, then it was used for Navy Stores, until it was decomissioned and sold in 2000.

The current data centre has taken ten years to plan, said Pip Squire.

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