Data centers are springing up across Oregon, drawn by the state’s mild climate, low threat of natural disasters and property-tax exemptions. This growing market presents exciting opportunities for both the data center and technology industries. Many of these facilities are pioneering green building techniques supported by technical resources and cash incentives offered by Energy Trust of Oregon, an independent nonprofit that delivers energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs to commercial, industrial and residential utility ratepayers. Energy Trust is helping these industry leaders set a new standard for energy-efficient, sustainable data centers that also boast lower operating costs.
For 10 years, Energy Trust has worked to increase energy efficiency in the state and saw a prime opportunity in traditional, energy-gulping data centers. The organization recently created a special data center solution that accommodates not only large-scale enterprise and colocated facilities, but also smaller data closets. This offering consists of an IT advisor for every project, a comprehensive menu of equipment and systems eligible for incentives, increased energy modeling incentives to encourage integrated design strategies, and three potential paths to accommodate a range of efficiency goals and innovation levels. Data centers that tap into these resources will maximize energy performance and reduce energy-related operating costs.
The following are two projects that inspired this data center offering. Their stories offer examples of innovation and best practices that will inform anyone looking to build an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly facility.
BendBroadband Vault Data Center, Bend, Oregon
When BendBroadband needed a new data center to power its growing phone, video and Internet services, it set high standards for energy efficiency and green building. Efficient equipment and systems can reduce energy costs, a key selling point for the company and potential tenants, and green building techniques would align with the company’s commitment to sustainability. To achieve its goals, the company enlisted Mildren Design Group and Hewlett-Packard Critical Facility Services to create a cutting-edge design. The team recommended an integrated planning approach, and the company received cash incentives from Energy Trust for holding a comprehensive early design meeting, conducting energy modeling and installing equipment and systems. Energy Trust also provided technical support and engineering expertise.
The team designed the 30,000-square-foot data center to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards, with an emphasis on energy-efficiency solutions. To cut costs associated with heating and cooling, the team installed two 450-kilowatt (kW) Kyoto Cooling systems, which take advantage of Bend’s low night-time temperatures to cool the building and equipment. The system includes a UPS flywheel system to help reduce the center’s power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio to 1.2.
The Vault also features custom cabinets that allow cooling only where necessary. A chimney above each cabinet removes heat produced by the servers. This approach saves energy and supports high-density virtualization, which reduces the fixed energy costs and drives up the efficiency and utilization of the existing servers. Having fewer servers also lowers energy demand and reduces emissions, pollutants and waste. To save even more energy, the team decided to make the cabinets white, instead of a more traditional black design. The white color deflects heat and reduces the amount of artificial light needed throughout the facility by 20 percent.
Energy-efficient lighting fixtures and controls round out the energy-saving equipment. To reduce demand on the power grid, the company also installed a 624-panel 152.9kW solar array on the south-facing roof. This array offsets 16 percent of the energy needs of the fully-loaded data center during peak daylight.
As a result of these strategies, BendBroadband anticipates saving 816,008 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually. This is equivalent to avoiding the release of more than 355,986 pounds of carbon emissions into the air every year. Energy-saving strategies also helped BendBroadband secure St. Charles Health Systems as the anchor tenant. The Vault’s estimated 30-percent reduction in annual data storage energy costs—savings that equate to a five-year return on investment of $7.1 million for the health-care organization—was a significant factor in sealing the deal.
Fortune Data Center, Hillsboro, Oregon
When Fortune began scouting sites for its new wholesale data center, Hillsboro, Oregon, quickly rose to the top of the list. The Portland suburb offers seismically stable soil, little to no lightning risk, clean power and tax benefits. Like BendBroadband, building an energy-efficient facility was a high priority for Fortune. Reducing energy consumption would contain operating costs, appeal to prospective tenants and demonstrate environmental leadership. Energy-saving techniques would also qualify the company for Energy Trust incentives to offset the cost of energy modeling, equipment installations and building commissioning.
Fortune worked with local firms PKJB Architectural Group and Nova Partners to design the facility to LEED Gold standards. The team consulted with Energy Trust representatives on the proposed energy systems to maximize savings year after year. The completed 240,000-square-foot facility includes numerous energy-saving features for an unprecedented level of efficiency.
To reduce cooling costs, the team divided the facility into hot aisles and cold aisles. By segregating servers that demand cooler temperatures, the cooling system doesn’t have to work so hard to keep the entire center at the proper temperature. The facility also boasts a 99-percent-efficient uninterrupted power supply, so for every dollar of power purchased, 99 percent of it is used instead of dissipating during conversion. Oregon’s mild climate will also allow the center to employ natural cooling methods to run the facility at least 30 percent of the year. As a result, the center’s PUE ratio is just 1.16 in full economization mode, as verified in a Level 5 commissioning process. Fortune expects its Oregon facility to save more than 48 million kWh and reduce carbon emissions by 43 million pounds over the next 10 years. This is equivalent to planting 2.6 million trees.
By prioritizing financial and technical resources for energy efficiency, the industry is able to adopt advanced systems and technologies that may have been cost prohibitive before. This is resulting in rapid progress toward more efficient and sustainable designs that result in reduced energy-related operating expenses and environmental impact. Those are benefits that anyone looking to build a new data center can’t afford to ignore.