Nautilus Aims to Complete Construction of Floating Data Center

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  • July 10, 2020

In an aberration from building the traditional land-based data center, Nautilus Data Technologies is working on a six-megawatt floating data center with the aid of $100 million in funding from Orion Energy Partners. The company has been working on executing the vision for the past five years, with construction underway on the facility currently located at Mare Island in California. The additional funding will be used to complete the project, which is targeted for the end of 2020.

“Orion Energy is providing Nautilus with flexible capital to complete the commissioning of our Stockton I data center, strategically located in Northern California at the Port of Stockton,” said Nautilus CEO James L. Connaughton.

The floating data center is geared to provide a new location option for the land use constraints that exist in places such as California and Singapore. Even in places with less regulation and less costly real estate, such as Arizona, placing data centers in proximity to residential areas can cause nuisance noise pollution.

The Cost of Cooling

Part of the reason why data centers emit noise is because they need to be kept running at an optimal temperature, which also uses considerable energy. According to a report from CB Insights, 3percent of all energy consumption globally comes from data centers, and with over 175 zettabytes of data expected by 2025, the amount of energy used by these facilities will likely also increase. “Often hidden in plain sight, data centers are the backbone of our internet,” the report states.“They store, communicate, and transport the information we produce every single day. The more data we create, the more vital our data centers become.” The report’s authors go on to describe existing data centers as “clunky, inefficient and outdated.”

The floating data center model can make these facilities more efficient by harnessing the cooling properties of an aquatic environment. Nautilus uses a cooling system called Total Resource Usage Effectiveness, or TRUE, that combines maritime industrial cooling technologies with infrastructure to increase efficiency, reduce costs to operate, and decease greenhouse gas emissions. The cooling method also doesn’t use chemical and ozone-depleting refrigerants.

Higher Power Density

Once construction on the Nautilus facility is finished, it will be relocated to a waterway in Stockton, Calif. The company states that the cooling method will result in the ability to provide five times more power density per rack—and will be contained within a smaller footprint. Nautilus has an approved proposal for a similar floating data center in Limerick Docks, Ireland.

Innovative designs for data centers such as those utilizing flotation aren’t new. In 2009 Google filed a patent for a water-based data center. Some opponents of floating data centers have expressed concern about possible impacts on marine wildlife. Ideas have also been explored for developing fully submerged data centers; however, it’s been found that such facilities would cause warming of the ocean or waterway.

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