Computer and internet servers are becoming an increasingly significant source of CO2 emissions (some experts estimate as much as 3% of total global CO2 emissions). There are many green web-hosting companies that offer carbon credits to offset the energy use of a company's internet servers, but until now none has actually generated 100% of their energy from renewable sources.
Well more than 100% actually... Computer retail and web services giant OWC (Other World Computing) just christened a new 500 KW Vestas V39 wind turbine, which makes it the world's first hosting service that is powered completely by on-site wind.
Excess energy produced by the turbine is sold back to the Illinois electrical grid which in turn ensures a uniform energy supply to the server farm. An emergency back-up generator provides power in the event of a blackout or brownout.
The Vestas turbine is the "crowning jewel" in what would already be considered a record-breaking green campus. OWC's Platinum LEED building (completed last year) has a dizzying list of green features:
• Geo-thermal ground-coupled heat pump system for heating and coolin
• High insulation value glass windows and exterior sunshade technology for reduced cooling costs
• High insulation value materials throughout the building for reduced energy use
• Smart sensors to detect and adjust energy in unused rooms
• Permeable Paver system for environmentally friendly run-off water handling
• Natural, bio-engineered swales for retaining irrigation water
• Use of native plants and prairie grasses for water conservation
• Sloan Waterless Urinals and dual-mode toilets for water conservation
• High-efficiency drinking water filtration system to eliminate need for delivered water
• Company-wide recycling with near zero waste generation
• Facilities for employees to commute to work by bicycle
• Fiber optic light harvesting technology to provide optimal daylight
But the wind turbine is not just morale-boosting. In addition to garnering marketing cache, OWC expects to pay back its investment (about $1.3 M) in as little as 10 years, at which point it will have an additional source of revenue -- selling clean energy.
CEO Larry O'Connor explains his decision to pay for such a radically green infrastructure investment:
I made the decision to 100% self-fund this project because of the conservational benefits as well as the future cost of energy. With the kilowatt hour rate in the Chicago market up 24.3% since 1999, it only makes sense to use technology to lower our usage and costs related to traditional power sources.