With the recent surge for demand of electronic storage in 'the cloud', data centers are expanding their capacity very fast. Data storage is an energy intensive process, as intensive cooling is required for optimal performance. In order to reduce greatly reduce the amount of energy needed for cooling, Kyoto Cooling systems developed a new technology, the 'heat wheel' that reduces energy use by up to 80%, resulting in large economic and environmental savings. Initally supported by Dutch governmental innovation programmes, the technology is now being sold worldwide.
The concept of using 'heat wheels' to provide air-based cooling has been around for over fourty years, but was usually deemed inadequate for sensitive data-storage facilities that needed purified air to prevent damage from external particles. By developing a design based on one internal and one external heat wheels, the KyotoCooling technology combined the availability of free cooling from external air with the necessary control over internal air quality. This innovation reduces the energy demand for cooling by up to 80%, thereby lowering costs and emissions significantly. After developing the technology and securing patents, the company faced a difficult market as the industry, extremely sensitive about reliability in its service, was not willing in what was considered a risky new technology. Fortunately, with the help of subsidies and other support from the Dutch government through its Energy Research Subsidy (EOS) programme, and cooperation with KPN, a large Dutch telecom firm, enough investment could be leveraged to build a test-site. Because of the commitment of KPN and the proven functionality at the test site, other firms were willing to switch to this new technology as well. KyotoCooling is now selling its technology worldwide.
Barriers and Drivers
A major driver has been the growing data storage service industry and rising energy costs, creating an economic environment in which the industry was willing to invest to reduce costs and emissions. Given that cooling is one of the main areas of expenditure for the industry, potential for cost reductions and lowering emissions was very high.
After KyotoCooling had developed the right technology, a signficant barrier was encounted in risk-aversion of potential clients. Since the main competetion factor for the industry concerns reliability, firms were initally not willing to implement a technology that was not yet widely diffused. The support of government agency NL Agency and KPN, a Dutch telecom firm, made it possible to create a test-site that proved its design in practise. This helped to persuade the first range of early-adaptors, after which now the technology is being diffused through the entire industry.
Since expenditures on energy for cooling are a major part of total expenditure in the industry, reducing the energy required for cooling by up to 80% can result in large savings, especially given the relatively small additional investment for the installation of this technology compared to conventional methods.
According to a recent report, data center currently are responsible for a huge amount of emissions, comparable to the total of the country Argentina (McKinsey, 2008). By reducing cooling energy demand, the total energy demand of the industry could decrease significantly. Additonaly, the technology used by Kyoto Cooling does not require cooling water, thereby improving its environmental impact even more.
More information can be found here:
'Revolutionizing Data Center Efficiency', (2008), McKinsey & Co. Available at: www.mckinsey.com%2Fclientservice%2Fbto%2Fpointofview%2Fpdf%2FRevolutionizing_Data_Center_Efficiency.pdf&ei=znyuTv7AJYmUOt6m6dYP&usg=AFQjCNEE-DXufzD31c0CTrPPorWWI9E0Xg&sig2=pDFdYwityTX6A9Fsn4zIiA&cad=rja