By Dan Fanning, LEED AP BD+C, DC CEP, HCC, Project and Engineering Manager – Data Center Practice
After the presentation and a lively discussion, I was invited up to tour the NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center, or NSIDC, is an information and referral center in support of polar and cryospheric research. NSIDC archives and distributes digital and analog snow and ice data. It also maintains information about snow cover, avalanches, glaciers, ice sheets, freshwater ice, sea ice, ground ice, permafrost, atmospheric ice, paleoglaciology, and ice cores.
NSIDC is part of the University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and is affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Geophysical Data Center through a cooperative agreement. NSIDC serves as one of eight Distributed Active Archive Centers funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to archive and distribute data from NASA’s past and current satellites and field measurement programs. NSIDC also supports the National Science Foundation through the Arctic System Science Data Coordination Center and the Antarctic Glaciological Data Center.
Pretty neat. But when they told me the NSIDC cut its overall power consumption by 70%, reduced its cooling energy by more than 90%, and brought its PUE rating from 2.03 to an average of 1.15 I was really excited to take a closer look.
The NSIDC had undergone a unique retrofit project which included virtualization of IT equipment, a photovoltaic solar powered UPS, and a new HVAC design built around eight Coolerado air conditioners.
This NSIDC features a 40 ton Coolerado Evaporative cooling system. The energy demand for the mechanical system during my tour was an astounding 900 watts. The entire system was being powered by CU’s 10kW solar array.
During the tour, we got to talking about the solar array and batteries. The mechanical system can operate on battery between 3-4 hours at night or during an outage. I have always had a chuckle to myself when asked “Are CRACs are on the UPS system?” it’s not so funny anymore.
This evap system uses a single water cycle and uses approximately 4 gallons per minute. The single cycle reduces any mineral build up and eliminates a return loop. After about 10 minutes, the drain might produce a coffee cup of water.
The small foot print and low energy demand of the Coolerado is impressive. Seeing this system in an operating data center really put the day’s efficiency discussions in perspective. The viability of this system will always be dependent on the site-specific characteristics and geography, but it does readily demonstrate what the future holds for mechanical system efficiency.