Computer and internet servers are becoming an increasingly significant source of CO2 emissions (some experts estimate as much as 3 percent 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 percent of their energy from renewable sources.
Well more than 100 percent actually... Computer retail and web services giant OWC (Other World Computing) just christened a 500 kilowatt 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.