The BendBroadband Vault Substantiates Extreme Energy Efficiency, Generating 152kW of Power with Solar Energy Alone

The Vault Colocation facility is designed to operate at a PUE of less than 1.2, a 0.8 reduction in the PUE compared to standard data centers, 80 percent reduction of the power needed for non-computing functions to operate the data center

On the map for sustainability, the recently opened 30,000 square-foot BendBroadband Vault in Central Oregon is substantiating its claims for extreme energy efficiency, slashing energy consumption by an estimated 600kW compared to standard data centers. As the data center industry continues to be on the environmental watch list, the Vault is proving that green tech is the wave of the future (view solar dashboard for live solar data feed). A partnership with Sunlight Solar and Advanced Energy PV PoweredT (both based in Central Oregon) was instrumental in creating a truly sustainable facility.

"From conception of the project, BendBroadband's intent has been to design the Vault to be as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. Green features including solar photovoltaic power generation, renewable energy, pervious pavement, xeriscape landscaping, LED lighting, and air-to-air heat exchange for cooling capacity, have all contributed to this goal," said Leonard Weitman, VP Technical Operations, BendBroadband.

There are two key energy-saving systems in the Vault: solar panels and a hot air containment data hall cooling system based on air-to-air heat exchange. An impressive 624 solar panels, manufactured by SolarWorld and installed by Sunlight Solar on the roof of the Vault, generate 152kW of power, one-sixth of the power consumed when the data hall is full. The energy-efficient hot air containment design allows cooling only where necessary. Advanced Energy PV PoweredT 75 kW inverters were also installed as solar inverters (or PV inverter), which is a critical component in the design of the solar energy system. It performs the conversion of the variable DC output of the Photovoltaic (PV) modules into a utility frequency AC current that can be fed into the commercial electrical grid.

"Energy conservation and intelligent design are first and foremost for new construction, but once that is done solar electricity is the best way to create power for use on the site," says Paul Israel, President Sunlight Solar Energy, Inc.

Data centers are known for being huge consumers of energy-in fact most operate at a Power Use Efficiency (PUE) ratio of 2 or higher. The Vault has changed all that. As one of the only colocation data centers in the nation dedicated to sustainable energy use in addition to Tier III Constructed Facility certification, the Vault is designed to operate at a PUE of less than 1.2. A 0.8 reduction in the PUE, from 2 to 1.2, corresponds to an 80 percent reduction of the power needed for non-computing functions to operate the data center. Most of the power consumed for non-computing operations is for cooling. The keys to this feat are the two 450 kW capacity KyotoCooling systems, and a solar array.

The KyotoCooling systems utilize the outside air to cool the building 75% of the time and based on the principle of heat exchange (which works best when there is a sizable temperature variance between the hot air inside the data hall and the cold air outside). Thus the cooling system becomes more efficient by concentrating the hot air away from the computer equipment. The Kyoto units have the capacity to cool the air by as much as 30 degrees and they deliver cool air into the data center at a steady 72 degrees. Because the system recycles air that's already been filtered and humidified, the air doesn't require additional filtration or humidification as it circulates back into the data center. This reduces power consumption and helps to conserve water, a limited resource in the high desert of Central Oregon where the Vault is located.

From the parking lot to insulation down to the landscaping, the Vault maximizes energy efficiency. The building's insulation is made from recycled denim jeans rather than fiberglass pads. Low-heat, low-energy LED lights were installed rather than less efficient incandescent or fluorescent lights. Rather than using traditional asphalt or concrete, which funnels water into storm drains and then into rivers and streams, pervious pavement was used. Pervious pavement allows water to seep directly into the ground. Plus, indigenous plants that require no irrigation once they are established were used in the landscaping.

Carbon credits are also purchased from Woodlands Carbon, an Oregon-based company sequestering carbon in the state's forests. This additional effort makes the Vault 100 percent carbon neutral. In other words, from a carbon emission standpoint, the Vault has no negative impact on the environment.

From an environmental and cost-savings point of view, the Vault's sustainable technology and design was appealing to the anchor tenant, St. Charles Health System. St. Charles Health System, which owns the St. Charles Medical Centers in Bend and Redmond, and leases and operates Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville, had previously colocated its data and servers in Hillsboro, Oregon. The company was interested in relocating their data operations to Bend for a variety of reasons, including reduced data transport costs and a desire to invest their money locally. And the health system knew it could realize savings by colocating at the Vault and utilizing green server technologies, such as virtualization and a high-density server platform.

"As one of the largest companies in Central Oregon, we need to be conscientious about our carbon footprint," said Bill Winnenberg, Chief Information Officer at St. Charles. "The fact that the Vault is a high-tech, environmentally-friendly data center located right here in Bend is a big draw for us. We expect to cut our energy costs by about 30 percent."

As a result of reduced data transport spending and that 30 percent reduction in colocation costs, leaders at St. Charles estimate they will receive a $7.1 million return on their investment over a five-year period.