Wind-Powered Data Centre Launched in Illinois

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Other World Computing (OWC) has become the first US data centre operator to run its entire operation using an on-site wind turbine

ISP and hosting company Other World Computing (OWC) has become the first US data centre operator to run its operation entirely on wind power. The 131-foot on-site wind turbine was erected on 19 October, and has since been providing all the electrical power for its facility in Woodstock, Illinois.

The OWC wind turbine is expected to generate an estimated 1.25 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year – more than double the current energy requirements of all OWC operations. With peak wind conditions, the OWC wind turbine can generate more energy in a single week than OWC’s operations require for an entire month. The company has therefore devised a strategy by which excess energy is sold back to the local power provider, thus providing a sustainable source of energy to the local area.

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In cases when there is not adequate wind power generation, the local utility company remains as the backup power source for OWC. The company also has two additional on-site backup power generators, so it can continue serving its customers without interruption. During extreme winds, the blades automatically go “flat” – with the narrow part of the blade pointing into the wind – shutting the turbine down until it senses safe operational wind speeds.

While other US data centre operators use wind power to provide part of their overall power, OWC is the first company with on-site wind generation that can produce enough power to support its entire facility, and more besides. This is partly because OWC’s data centre is small (37,000 square feet) and can be supported by a single wind turbine, limiting the initial investment required.

Despite this, the initial cost of the turbine – about $1.25 million (£780,000) – will take between 10 and 14 years to recover, according to OWC. The project is 100 percent funded by Larry O’Connor, CEO of Other World Computing, who believes that the conservational benefits and future energy costs will reap their own reward.

“With the kilowatt hour rate in the Chicago market up 24.3 percent since 1999, it only makes sense to use technology to lower our usage and costs related to traditional power sources,” he said in a statement.

Green data centres are now beginning to spring up, not only in the US but all over the world. Earlier this year the the world’s first sea water air conditioned (SWAC) data centre opened in Mauritius, drawing cold sea water from nearly 2000 metres down to cool its heat exchanges. TeleCityGroup also opened a data centre in Stockholm, Sweden, which uses power generated by wind and hydropower and “free air” cooling to regulate temperatures for 4 months of the year.

Earlier this month eWEEK Europe visited the Telehouse West facility in London’s docklands, which will eventually have its own generator buildings to power the centre using a combination of fuels, including at least 10 percent renewables. When it opens, the site will feature solar panels on the roof which will provide the facility with 6,000kWh of power per year.

Telehouse has also built a network of pipes which will transport water, warmed by the excess heat from the racks of servers, to more than 1,000 homes in the area free of charge. This benefits both the local community and the data centre itself, which uses the water returning from the local developments to cool its servers.


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