Innovation in the Data Center: Making Ice Helps IO.Phoenix Keep Energy Costs Down

IO Phoenix Colocation Data Center Chilled Water Pipes

At IO, we believe in innovation. We think that data center designers, builders, and operators should be as forward-thinking and as innovative as those who design and build devices like Google Glass or the iPhone-enabled heart monitor.

That philosophy shows up in IO.Anywhere® – manufactured, factory-tested, UL-listed, and software-defined data center infrastructure that can function discretely or as part of a system to deliver standard and secure increments of power, cooling and IT capacity wherever it is required on a just-in-time basis. And it shows up in IO.OS®, the world’s first true data center operating system, which provides Intelligent Control – the ability to deploy, provision and optimize data center capacity based on the needs of your business, applications, and users.

But it also shows up in other places. Like in the chiller room at IO.Phoenix. There, instead of following in the well-worn footsteps of other data center operators when we built the facility, we built in a thermal energy storage system. That system allows us to make ice at night, when there is much less demand on the power grid and electricity is dramatically cheaper, then use that ice to cool the data center during the day, when demand for power (and electricity cost) is at its peak.

IO.Phoenix uses the Ice Ball Thermal Storage System from Cryogel. The ice balls are water-filled, dimpled plastic spheres about the size of a softball, floating in tanks filled with a glycol solution. During the night, that solution is run through chillers and then pumped back into the tanks, freezing the ice balls. During the day, the solution – still chilled from the ice balls – is pumped through a heat exchanger which chills water in a separate loop used in the data center. That way, we’re running the chiller most at night when there is less demand on the power grid rather than during the day when the demand is greater (and electricity more expensive).

One of the principal benefits of thermal storage is cost savings. If electricity costs $.03 per kWh during off-peak hours and $.11 per kWh during peak hours, the savings associated with shifting energy consumption to off-peak hours is significant. And it’s savings our customers can see.

Beyond cost savings, thermal storage reduces the data center’s demand on the power grid when overall demand is at its peak. That’s a big issue for utilities; if they have more free capacity on the grid, they’re less likely to face blackouts or to have to turn to very expensive sources of power to meet peak demands. Ostensibly, if a lot of big energy users were to shift demand off peak, that could even help power utilities avoid costly infrastructure expansion (and all of the environmental impacts that come with).

Making ice…it’s one more way IO is innovating the data center. Because innovating the data center is the only way to sustainably meet global data demand into the future.