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Data centre specialist calls for use of River Thames for London server cooling

The chief engineering officer of Dutch co-location company Interxion has called for the appropriate authorities to allow the Thames to be used in water cooling of London data centres.

Lex Coors of Dutch co-location company Interxion, wants to be allowed to use the cooling power of the River Thames, following the success of the firm’s seawater cooling projects around the world.

Interxion’s data centre at the University of Stockholm in Sweden has cut its energy bills by a claimed one million dollars (£0.6 million) a year using seawater from the Baltic Sea to cool three different server rooms in sequence. This, Interxion says represents an 80 per cent saving on previous cooling costs, and a 13 per cent saving over typical seawater cooling costs, thanks to its reuse twice over.

Mr Coors said that the modular nature of its centres allowed Interxion to tap into the network of seawater pipes in Stockholm and to re-use the water in several server rooms, one after the other.

The firm won a Best Retrofit Facility award this month for its work from data centre research body the Uptime Institute.

The water enters the first facility at 6 deg C and leaves the third one at 24 deg C. From the final data centre, the water is directed to a heat pump to heat local residential and commercial buildings.

The other key element is that the seawater is not used directly in the HVAC systems, given its high salt content, but is sent to a heat exchanger which cools a fresh water circuit.

Interxion says the seawater circuitry has lowered its Power Usage Effectiveness from 1.95 to 1.09.

The firm has chillers installed to guarantee resilience in the event of the seawater feed being shut down. But the Stockholm sites only ran the chillers for a few hours last year, as a result of the government shutting off the seawater supply, for environmental reasons.

Mr Coors believes that sea water is a better option for cooling than using boreholes, since clients are worried about the risks of legionella with standing water. River water would also work well, he said, provided the appropriate authorities would provide permission.

“London would be excellent if we could get access to the Thames, but they’re kind of scared,” he told a conference audience.

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