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High-tech water systems help drive Apple's Reno iCloud project

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Part of Apple's $1 billion investment in its newest iCloud data center in Reno, Nev., goes toward providing clean water for efficient cooling in the high desert location. Here's what's involved in the mega project.

Truckee River


Other segments in this series have looked at Apple's commitment to building the world's greenest data centers, the company's jump start in construction at its Reno data center site, the massive scope of site preparation, the sophisticated water technology being installed and the futuristic data conduits that deliver iCloud's digital packets at the speed of light.

Apple's newest data center, located within the Reno Technology Park now under development by Unique Infrastructure Group, takes advantage of several favorable elements of the site's location.

Despite being located next to the Truckee River (shown above, across the freeway from the site) however, Apple's new iCloud facility needs a source of clean, reliable water. Instead of processing river water, it needs to pull a significant amount of water from underground aquifers.

Apple Reno data center site


Despite appearing to be bone dry, the site is actually supplied with underground sources that flow in from the north, but are held from running into the river by impermeable layers of rock. This provides plenty of water that meets the data center's high standards, ranging from low particulate counts to a balanced pH.

Apple Reno data center site


Large water infrastructure



Reno Data Center


Because the site lies just under a hill (above), it's also possible to build water tanks on the side of the slope to hold a supply that is then gravity fed to the facility, reducing the need to build water towers or additional pumping plants.

Reno Data Center


Water is so critical to the site's performance that parallel, redundant supply pipes are being laid, running from the well sources through massive valves (being buried, above) to the site itself. Stacks of dozens of pipes sit waiting for installation (below).

Reno Data Center


In front of the initial pilot data center facility Apple has already set up, you can see another set of large valves controlling the flow between different areas of the project (below, next to one of the large supply pipes being laid across the site).

Reno Data Center


Pipes wearing iWatches



The pipes supplying water to the data center are monitored just as closely as the air temperatures within the server closets. Any flow interruption or other issues with the supply (such as freezing, or contamination) could result in overheating problems that might otherwise jeopardize the reliability of the facilities' servers.

Reno Data Center


To keep things under control, the pipes are not only jacketed with insulation but also outfitted with sensors (the black block visible in the foreground on top of the pipe, above) that monitor flow and other aspects of the water supply.

Water chillers and evaporative cooling systems



The high tech, sophisticated water supply is required for stored water chillers that are used to efficiently keep racks of servers at optimal temperatures.

At its first LEED Platinum data center facility in Maiden, N.C., Apple developed a series of energy efficient programs, including sophisticated monitoring of power consumption and cooling requirements.

There, Apple is using a massive chilled water storage system (pictured below) that improves "chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours each day," the company noted.

Data Center


Apple's water chiller storage system in Maiden, NC


It adds that at night and during cool weather hours, "free" outside air cooling enables it to turn off its water chillers 75 percent of the time. The dry climate of Northern Nevada is likely to make such evaporative cooling even more effective.

"Cold-air containment pods, with variable-speed fans controlled to exactly match air flow to server requirements from moment to moment," enable "extreme precision in managing cooling distribution" the company notes in its report on environmental sustainability.

Apple Reno data center site


The initial small building in Reno appears to use a similar water chilling system on a smaller scale (visible above at the rear of the facility). Once the main facility is built, Apple's Reno data center will likely have a water system that's at least as large as the one in Maiden.
post #2 of 16
That's pretty cool. Water-cool, even.

Social Capitalist, dreamer and wise enough to know I'm never going to grow up anyway... so not trying anymore.

 

http://m.ign.com/articles/2014/07/16/7-high-school-girls-are-kickstarting-their-awa...

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Social Capitalist, dreamer and wise enough to know I'm never going to grow up anyway... so not trying anymore.

 

http://m.ign.com/articles/2014/07/16/7-high-school-girls-are-kickstarting-their-awa...

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post #3 of 16

The PC modding community snubbed this news, citing the lack of colored lights adorning the water-cooling system.

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post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vorsos View Post

The PC modding community snubbed this news, citing the lack of colored lights adorning the water-cooling system.

 

They could not get authorization for that, in fear that the lights would be mistaken for an UFO landing pad, when they should go to area 51.

post #5 of 16
Why not build in a cooler location?
post #6 of 16
If they have the aquifer, it is a shame to use the water for evaporative cooling rather than ground-source heat rejection. That is a big loss of water for communities downstream. Hopefully there is much more to it than identified in the article...

As for why not use a cooler location, there are a number of issues to balance, including power cost and availability, network, utility reliability, natural hazards, human hazards, road access, access to staff, cost of land, geographic diversification strategy, taxes, etc. Cooling energy from Phoenix monsoon to North Dakota winter is likely 25% of IT load, which is quite meaningful, but Reno is more mild than Phoenix so your delta might only be 15% in the summer but 8-10% annually. In exchange, you get dramatically reduced latency to the population centers west of the Rockies.
Edited by aaarrrgggh - 4/2/13 at 7:24am
post #7 of 16

post #8 of 16
If you look where the facility is located and the fact the aquifer is blocked from draining into the Truckee River (starts at Lake Tahoe and runs east), I have to wonder who else has access to this water. East of Reno is mountains, which turns into a high desert. Depending on the flow of the aquifer, I'm not sure how much of this land is even inhabited. I've driven I-80 from Sacramento to Salt Lake City and once you leave Reno, there's nothing but barren land. The closest towns east are Wadsworth and Fernly (18-20 miles). There's nothing south until you get to Virginia City. I'm not a geologist so I'm not sure which way the aquifer is going but Nevada is a barren state other than Reno and Las Vegas so I'm not sure many others would be using this water.
post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by igriv View Post

Why would you need CLEAN water for cooling?

 

must likely to prevent the cooling plumbing from being clogged...

post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevinneal View Post

Why not build in a cooler location?


I work in Reno a lot.  With the exception of summer when it does get pretty hot, the remainder of the year has it somewhat temperate, getting downright bone-chilling in the 20's during the winter.

post #11 of 16
haar View Post
igriv View Post

Why would you need CLEAN water for cooling?

must likely to prevent the cooling plumbing from being clogged...

That's exactly right. Some areas of the country have such polluted water tables, you can't even run a dishwasher without major deposit buildup.

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post #12 of 16
iPipe
post #13 of 16
Thanks for interesting example of trend in Europe and North America to leverage geographical features when siting ICT facilities.

I added a reference to your article to post of examples: http://vertatique.com/importance-location-green-data-centers.

@GreenICT
post #14 of 16
Originally Posted by igriv View Post
Why would you need CLEAN water for cooling?

 

Why would you need CLEAN gasoline for engines?

Why would you need CLEAN oil for lubrication?

Why would you need CLEAN fruit for eating?

 

1oyvey.gif

Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone] exists, it doesn’t deserve to.
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Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone] exists, it doesn’t deserve to.
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post #15 of 16
Originally Posted by igriv View Post
Do you wash your wood when you make a campfire?


I make sure it's not wet. 1oyvey.gif

Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone] exists, it doesn’t deserve to.
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Originally posted by Marvin

Even if [the 5.5” iPhone] exists, it doesn’t deserve to.
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post #16 of 16

Does anybody know: 1) how much water would be lost through evaporative cooling and 2) what the rate of replenishment of the aquifer is?  The project wouldn't be so impressive from a green/sustainable point of view if #1) was greater than #2).

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