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GM Chooses Flywheel UPS for Detroit Data Center

September 16, 2013 By Linda Hardesty

GM data centerA flywheel for battery-free backup power and in-row cooling that reduces the need for electricity both contribute to a 70 percent reduction in energy use at General Motors’ new $130 million enterprise data center in Detroit.

The data center has earned LEED Gold certification by the US Green Building Council.

For the new 160,000-sq-foot data center, GM switched from the usual battery-based uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to one powered by mechanical flywheels and a diesel engine. Used in less than 2 percent of data centers globally, it reduces emissions, noise pollution and fuel consumption, says GM. Plus, by avoiding the use of the equivalent of 12,000 car batteries, GM eliminated the heating and cooling systems required to keep the batteries at their optimal temperature.

“We have built five million square feet of data centers around the world, and this is one of the first ones incorporating this flywheel-powered back-up technology,” said Bernie Woytek, senior associate with architecture firm Gensler, in a statement. “It essentially eliminates a football field-sized room of batteries.”

Aisles of technology equipment feature in-row cooling to contain heat in a smaller area so less air is moved, reducing electricity consumption. GM leverages Michigan’s cooler climate by pumping water outside to chill it naturally, allowing the servers’ cooling system to power down three-quarters of the year. GM also is distributing power at higher voltages, eliminating energy-draining transformers that generate heat to convert power to the appropriate voltage. As a result, the facility reduced power loss by 17 percent.

Beyond these design elements, the facility continually measures and analyzes its power use in real time for optimal efficiency.

The data center, and a mirror facility (also 160,000 square feet) under construction in Milford, Mich., will eventually serve as dual nerve centers integrating all aspects of product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales and other business applications around the world.

GM is consolidating its global IT infrastructure from 23 data centers to two, which is helping reduce energy use. In addition to the consolidation, GM is incorporating energy-saving technologies into its facilities.

As far as the consolidation of its data centers, Curt Loehr, GM’s IT project manager, said, “Servers and data storage connected to high bandwidth redundant networks allow consolidation of global infrastructure in most cases. Where necessary GM will cache data locally if application requires it, but for the most part, applications consolidation is efficient with newer technology.”

Fewer than 5 percent of data centers in the US achieve LEED certification, according to the USGBC.

Photo Credit: © General Motors



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