It’s not a secret that Denver and the Rocky Mountain Region has been experiencing substantial growth in data center and other tech related business. Whether building new facilities, expanding existing ones or simply conducting business as usual, there’s almost always ample opportunity to increase energy efficiency and optimize data centers.
Fairbanks Energy launched our Denver office in 2017 to service the area, and we recently sat down with Timothy Wilcox, Director, Controls Services, to learn more.
What trends have you been seeing around energy efficiency in the data center industry? Are there any trends specific to the Denver market?
TW: A trend that I have been seeing around energy efficiency in data centers is the use of free cooling/economizers to condition the data center space. This is dependent on the climate in which the data center resides but in a vast majority of regions, the ambient temperature of the outdoor air can be used to generate low cost cooling for a data center. In areas like Denver that have a very dry climate, free cooling can be used during a large portion of the year due to the low wet bulb temperatures that can be achieved. This allows the data center to run very efficiently without having to run costly systems, such as chillers.
What recent technologies or strategies have you seen that have “moved the needle” in data center optimization?
TW: One of the recent technologies that has become more prevalent in data centers is the use of variable speed fans in cooling units. Variable speed fans can be retrofitted into existing HVAC units and come standard on many new ones. These units allow for much more control over the amount of conditioned air being provided and can save money by reducing the amount of cooling, when needed. Coupled with a building management system, even more savings can be achieved by controlling these units based off of real-time data being recorded throughout the data center.
What advice would you give a data center manager who is beginning to think about increasing efficiency and reducing power usage in his or her facility?
TW: The biggest piece of advice I could give a data center manager is to look at optimizing the equipment that they already have in their data center. Making sure that your existing systems are working correctly is the best way to ensure that you are running as efficiently as possible. Faulty equipment/controls can lead to a drastic increase in energy usage that can be avoided with preventative maintenance and service.
Is there one area common to data centers in most every industry (colos, financial sector, hospitals, colleges, etc.) that is ripe for improvement?
TW: The most common issue I have seen across every industry is the loss of cooling capacity due to the leakage of conditioned air and the mixing of conditioned air with exhaust air from the servers. In almost every data center, there is work that can be done to ensure that conditioned air from the HVAC units is making its way to the desired space. This is especially true in raised floor data centers where uncovered holes in the raised floor tiles and poorly placed perforated tiles leak conditioned air into unconditioned spaces. Simply covering/sealing these holes in the raised floor and removing poorly placed perforated tiles will have an immediate impact on the efficiency of the data center.