Super-efficient TELUS data centre proves the power of partnerships

Image of Telus Data Centre
It may get hot in Kamloops during the summer, but an innovative cooling system at TELUS' Kamloops Internet Data Centre uses outside air to cool the centre most of the year. Additional chilling is needed for only a few weeks each year.

Eight measures add up to projected $190,000 in annual electricity savings

When TELUS started planning for its new data centre in 2008, it focussed on sustainability, reliability, security, and efficiency. So energy efficiency had to be central to the design.

"Data centres are extremely power hungry," says Pete Hegarty, director of technology strategy for TELUS. "So the operating cost of energy is a big consideration in a business case. Another consideration is the environmental impact of that energy, a key consideration for TELUS, where environmental stewardship is a core value."

B.C. was chosen for its clean hydro power, and Kamloops for its climate and low earthquake risk. TELUS began construction of its Kamloops Internet Data centre in June of 2012.

Data centres offer a new challenge

The centre is a state of the art facility, built to LEED Gold and Uptime Tier III standards. It's even more innovative when you consider that centralized data centres themselves are relatively new; only in the past few decades has technology allowed for centralization of data services, instead of housing servers locally within the communities they serve.

Determining the baseline energy use for such a centre was a challenge. Power Smart worked with various stakeholders to develop the "New Data Centre Energy Efficiency Baseline Guide," which  allowed comparisons of different technology options to determine how they would affect the new centre's efficiency.

Energy modeling helps identify energy efficiency opportunities

Which conservation measures would work best? Detailed energy modeling was used with the assistance of BC Hydro's New Construction Program to look at interactions between the building systems.

The result: a list of eight conservation measures estimated to save more than 3 GWh of energy, which amounts to approximately $190,000 in saved electricity costs per year for TELUS.

One measure is the use of outside air to cool the centre, so that additional chilling is only required for about two weeks a year.

"We looked at efficiency from both the data centre facility side and the IT equipment side," says Hegarty. The goal was 80 per cent energy efficiency savings on the facility's operations.

"An average legacy data centre site today has a power utilization effectiveness of 2.0, meaning for every kilowatt of IT power they consume [power used by a server or computer that's generating IT services], they require another kilowatt of support load," he says. "The Kamloops site is at 1.15, so the overhead required to support the IT load, primarily cooling, is now only 15 per cent instead of 100."

Hegarty says taking an integrated design approach was key to finding efficiencies.

BC Hydro partnership helps improve efficiency

Developing the new TELUS centre was a multi-year project that drew in support from multiple BC Hydro teams, including the major customer projects team, future systems regional planning teams, New Construction Program and Power Smart Engineering. Key Accounts and the major connections team continue to support TELUS as it works on subsequent building phases.

Lloyd Switzer, senior vice-president at TELUS, was impressed by the partnership.

"The teams have worked very collaboratively to complete the analysis for Power Smart and to energize the data centre within aggressive project timelines," says Switzer. "Having the Key Account Manager, Kerry Fast, as a single point of contact from beginning to end on the project was extremely useful versus dealing with multiple touchpoints for the many related questions and activity that arose."

"I think working with BC Hydro helped push us to try and come up with more efficient designs than maybe we would have," says Hegarty. "Our mechanical design was very efficient, but on the administrative part of the building, they pushed us to come up with more efficient ways of doing things."

Phase two of the Kamloops centre is now underway. And the innovative, energy-efficient design has been used for a TELUS data centre in Quebec as well. Says Hegarty, "In our next module, we'll try to make it even more efficient."