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Going Tech Green: Google Files Patent for Floating Data Centers September 12, 2008

Posted by Bill in Ad Serving, Google, Green, Online Advertising, Technology.
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I have to admit, this is truly interesting. Thanks to Joe Tedd for sending to me…

Article from Red Herring

Search giant Google has filed a patent application for a “water-based data center” that would use seawater for cooling and rely on ocean tides, currents, and waves for power generation.

The application, filed last year with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, became public knowledge on August 28. Google envisions “floating platform-mounted” data centers 3 to 7 miles from shore, in 50 to 70 meters (164 to 230 feet) of water.

As the global use of the Internet grows, more large computing facilities, or data centers, are needed to support the demand. But these data centers, many as large as 100,000 square feet, require large amounts of costly real estate and electricity.

Google’s plan strikes at both expenses. Data centers would be housed offshore, presumably where land prices are cheaper, and would generate their own electricity, said Data Center Knowledge Editor Rich Miller.

Miller said annual operating costs for data centers in the U.S. can run as high as $28 million per year in regions with relatively expensive electricity.

Google has been searching for ways to use more renewable energy sources, investing in solar companies and other startups through its foundation.

But schemes for harvesting ocean power from the natural motion of the water are still largely untested in commercial applications. Numerous pilot plants are under development around the world.

Google doesn’t intend to build its own wave energy machines, however. The patent application mentions the use of Pelamis P-750 Wave Energy Converter systems for generating electricity from waves.

The P-750 systems are made by the Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power. The company has built what it claims is the first commercial wave farm off the coast of Portugal. It has a 2.25 megawatt capacity, but the machines are still in commissioning phase.

Google isn’t the only company looking at placing data centers offshore. San Francisco Bay Area startup IDS would like to place them on decommissioned cargo ships, according to some reports. And Google might encounter resistance to its idea from businesses that don’t want important information residing on data centers that are less resistant to man-made or natural hazards, such as hurricanes.

Patent filings typically take 32 months for approval, according to the U.S. patent office. That means Google might not receive its patent on the floating data centers until October 2009.

The system envisioned by Google would be modular, meaning it could easily be scaled up or down depending on the need.

In one example, the patent application describes 40 Pelamis systems spread over a square kilometer to produce 30 megawatts of electricity.

The platform system would also use wind turbines to provide pumping power for the seawater cooling units.