Facebook unveiled its green data center and energy efficient servers in Oregon this Spring, but now the social network giant has achieved another milestone: it’s been granted a LEED gold certification for the Oregon data center, which uses 52 percent less energy to operate than a standard data center (hat tip Green Data Center Blog).
LEED is a green design and building certification managed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Most data center operators don’t bother to apply for it, and many data centers aren’t able to meet the rigorous standards of LEED. Buildings commonly need to be designed from the ground up as efficiently as possible to achieve the LEED status, and Facebook says it “redesigned our entire physical infrastructure, from grid to gates.” The metric PUE is more often used for energy and data centers.
But LEED’s strength is that it takes a holistic approach to evaluating green credentials of a building, and besides looking at energy use, the certification considers materials, location, water use and indoor environmental quality. Buildings that achieve enough points under these five categories are certified. Gold is the second-highest LEED certification, while platinum is the highest, and GE (s GE) and Vantage Data Centers both have achieved LEED platinum for specific data centers.
Facebook has employed a variety of innovations and techniques — some industry standard and some more unusual — to make sure its Oregon data center operates in an efficient way. That includes removing the large chillers that can account for up to half of a data center’s power consumption, and relying on outside air and evaporative cooling. To go along with its use of outside air, Facebook says it has designed its servers to be able to work in hotter and more humid environment.
Facebook also touts more efficient use of the electricity coming into the facility, too, and the company is using power at a higher voltage throughout the data center (277v compared with 208v). That cuts out a stage of power transformers. Facebook says only 7 percent of the power coming into the facility is lost in conversion, versus a typical data center that can lose 22 to 25 percent of the power in conversion. (see this video of how the voltage design works).
Finally Facebook’s Oregon data center also used other more unusual methods. For example, Facebook turned to Redwood Systems for an LED control system that uses ethernet cables to manage network lights and turns off most lights when no one is around. Outside of the data center Facebook has built a solar array that supplies some of its facilities’ operations with clean power.
As Internet giants build more and more data centers, and devices increasingly become always-on, more and more energy will be consumed to power the Internet. Companies like Google (s GOOG), Facebook, Yahoo (s YHOO) and even Apple (s AAPL) are investing in ways to reduce that growing energy footprint and also turn to more clean power.