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Council Bluffs: Energy efficiency without sacrificing water


By Kyle Myers

CyrusOne’s mission is to enable hyperscalers to deliver cutting-edge services and empower enterprises to efficiently stitch together their critical IT resources.  Doing this requires a lot of energy and generates a high need for cooling, which can then consume a lot of water and energy.  All this can have a big impact on the environment, which is a responsibility that CyrusOne takes seriously.

We recognize our climate change contributions stem largely from our use of electricity, and we have taken a variety of actions to limit this impact on the environment, including a pledge to operate carbon-free by 2040.

The first step to meet that goal is to target areas where electricity is the most carbon-intensive with energy efficiency upgrades and purchases of renewable energy. Another is to design and build data centers with world-class energy efficiency.

To do that, our strategy is three-pronged:

  1. Minimize data hall heat – We work hard to cool our data halls, which is why we minimize heat from our support equipment in the hall such as lighting and UPS.
  2. Right cooling, right place, right time – In colocation data centers, the occupancy of a data hall will vary over time. To be efficient, we need to provide precise amounts of cooling to the specific locations on demand.
  3. Supplier partnerships – We partner with our equipment suppliers to identify new high-efficiency technologies and to alter equipment specs to support our particular design needs.

Efficiency by design

That strategy has come together in our newest, fastest and most secure data center – the Council Bluffs I data center in the “Silicone Prairie.” Opened in October 2020 in the Omaha, Nebraska, area, the 18 MW, 30,000-square-foot data hall achieves a low PUE without depleting local water supplies through a host of energy-efficient design features:

  • High-efficiency uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) – The UPSs we source generate little waste heat and operate efficiently even while operating at 50% of maximum capacity. This means the data center doesn’t have to run at full capacity for peak efficiency.
  • LED lighting – Older lighting technology converts more of its electricity into heat than into light, but modern LED lighting gives us the double dividend of less data hall heat and less wasted electricity. Coupled with occupancy sensors, our LEDs deliver lighting only where and when it’s needed.
  • Building management system – Using intelligent systems and sensor networks, the data center predicts the need for cooling and adjusts chiller output, air handling and other factors to meet customer needs with minimal electricity use.
  • Economizers – Also called “free cooling” systems, economizers use low outdoor ambient air temperatures to generate chilling when the weather is right, using roughly 14% of the electricity required by standard chillers. Economizers are installed in facilities where the local climate provides efficient free cooling.
  • Water consumption-free cooling with a closed loop chilled water system – Our innovative design uses an air-cooled chiller with an integrated compressor and condenser to cool a closed loop of water. This chilled water is used to remove heat from the data hall, but no water is evaporated in the process. The water loop is filled once during construction and remains filled throughout the life of the facility. This closed-loop technology avoids new water usage in operations and the release of concentrated pollutants into the wastewater system.
  • Throttling variable frequency drives (VFDs) for CRAH units – Our systems use controllable VFDs to power air handlers and pumps, meaning they don’t have to be “all on” or “all off.” The cooling distribution equipment is operated at just the right level needed for optimal cooling without wasting energy.
  • Liquid-to-chip cooling ready – This system allows even higher efficiency for customers who want to use various liquid cooling methods (in-row cooling, liquid-to-cabinet, liquid-to-chip, and immersion cooling).

Location is everything

Council Bluffs’ location also offers others perks, including proximity to a nearby hyperscaler that serves as an incubator for those who want to test their applications in the cloud and see how their workloads perform. Large hyperscale companies choose non-tier areas, such as Council Bluffs, because of lower power costs.

By choosing Council Bluffs for its data center, CyrusOne joined the likes of Apple, AT&T, Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon, Yahoo and other giants that have invested billions into establishing data centers and running fiber-optic cables along the United States’ 41st parallel.

Council Bluffs I represents the industry-leading building without sacrificing water, and ultimately sets the standard for future data centers that CyrusOne will build with more sustainability in mind to meet its zero carbon by 2040 goal.