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Yahoo opens its ‘chicken coop’ green data center

Yahoo’s newest data center, a 155,000-square-foot facility in upstate New York, uses 40 percent less energy and 95 percent less water than conventional facilities.

The energy-efficient data center has a variety of unique traits. It gets almost all of its cooling from outdoor air, giving it a power usage effectiveness rating of 1.08, which is significantly below the industry average of 1.92. The data center, which is capable of holding 50,000 servers, has been designed like a chicken coop: the long, narrow buildings make it easier to circulate in outdoor air. The building itself is also positioned to take advantage of the prevailing winds.

Dubbed the Yahoo Computing Coop (YCC), the facility doesn’t contain any chillers. “It’s a passively cooled facility, much like you’d find in chicken coops,” explains Christina Page, director of climate and energy strategy at Yahoo. “It’s designed to maximize the pass of airflow. This is how we cooled buildings before we used the mechanical brute force of chillers.”

The data center will run Yahoo services like Mail, Messenger and Flickr.

The data center is touted to use 40 percent less electricity than typical data centers and will only spend one percent of its energy bill on cooling. Yahoo is currently seeking a patent for its Chicken Coop design that it could use as a model when building future data centers. The company, which has been looking to reinvent itself in the wake of Google’s rise, clearly has not lost its innovative roots.

The U.S. Department of Energy gave Yahoo a $9.9 million grant toward the cost of the facility. The DOE wants to encourage better energy practices in data centers, which account for a growing proportion of U.S. energy use.

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