If you have a data center in Bibai, perhaps you can consider this innovative cooling approach.
White Data Center in Bibai, Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, has turned to snow. They discovered using snow as a way to cool the vast servers that support the global digital economy without fueling the climate crisis.
According to the International Energy Agency, to keep up with the growth of streaming, cloud-based gaming, and cryptocurrency mining, there are more data centers popping up all over the world. However, they frequently use a lot of energy and account for about 1% of the world’s energy demand.
Meanwhile, White Data Center (WDC) never uses thermal fuels or electric cooling; instead, the facility is constantly kept cool using only 100% natural energy. Outside the facility, snow is gathered and stacked into a mound. Snow is slowly melted by heat from its servers, and the resulting water cools pipes filled with antifreeze. This antifreeze then circulates through the data center’s air conditioning system, keeping temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit).
Snow has traditionally been associated with the prosperity of Northern Japan’s economy. Bibai, which is 620 miles (or 1,000 kilometers) north of Tokyo, receives eight to ten meters of snow annually, and it costs 400 million yen ($2.9 million) to plow and dump it. Although this can be viewed as a nuisance by residents, WDC director Kota Honma claims that it could potentially be useful.
Bibai city officials work with WDC to deliver some of the 200,000 tons of snow that are removed from the city’s streets each year to the company’s data center. The objective is to expand up the center from 20 server racks to 200 server racks using the additional cooling capacity.
According to Takahisa Tsuchiya, executive director of Bibai City’s economic department, the snow mound is insulated with a layer of wood chips and dirt during the summer. As a business opportunity, storing “free” cold energy that falls from the sky makes perfect sense. Additionally, he said that they ought to alter their perspective in order to make the snow work in their favor.
Furthermore, snow cooling is simply one aspect of the energy puzzle for the data center. In a nearby greenhouse where the company is growing mushrooms and has tested other products like Japanese mustard spinach, coffee beans, abalones, and sea urchins, heat from the servers is used to warm the air and water. Additionally, it aspires to establish itself as Hokkaido’s first industrial eel farm.
The Bibai data center started experimenting with snow in 2014 with funding from Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Organization (NEDO), and according to Honma, it has cut data center cooling expenses by 55%. As a now-commercial firm, WDC intends to draw clients from data centers in Tokyo.