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Yahoo! Pursues New Climate Strategy for Data Centers

Niagara Falls powers many of Yahoo's serversIn a reversal of its 2007 announcement that it would utilize carbon offsets to become carbon neutral, Yahoo! announced last week that it will now pursue the reduction of data center energy instead.

The move represents a shift in climate strategy philosophy for the Sunnyvale, California based technology company.  Rather than continuing to pursue carbon offsets, Yahoo! also announced that it will be building a cutting-edge data center in Lockport, New York – part of its new energy reduction strategy.  Lockport is located east of Buffalo in Niagara County.

The company claims that both regional climate and available natural resources (namely water from Niagara Falls) played a role in the decision to build in Lockport.  According to a report by the Albany Business Review, the New York Power Authority has guaranteed Yahoo a total of 15 megawatts of hydropower.  Experts say that capacity will save Yahoo around $100M over a 15-year period.

David Filo, Yahoo!’s co-founder and CEO, says the new Lockport-based data center represents the one of the greenest, most energy-efficient data centers in the world.  According to company sources, efficiencies will be achieved in a number of ways.  As mentioned previously, energy will be supplied by primarily by hydropower.  The center will also utilize what Yahoo has termed – the Yahoo! Computing Coop.  Resembling a chicken coop, the design will use 100% outside air to cool the servers.

Server cooling often accounts for 30-70% of overhead energy use.  According to Christina Page, Climate and Energy Strategy for Yahoo!, data centers account for more than half of its company-wide carbon footprint.  The new Lockport data center is reported to have a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.1 or better.

Data center efficiency is measured in Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). Yahoo!-rival Google currently holds the title of the most efficient data center with a PUE rating of 1.12.

Filo adds, “Reducing our carbon footprint has always been a priority and we’ve decided to focus all our energy and investment on that philosophy. We believe creating highly-efficient data centers will have a greater long-term, direct impact on the environment and gives us the best opportunity to play a leadership role in addressing climate change.”  The Yahoo! CEO also claims that the company will reduce the carbon intensity of its data centers by at least 40% by 2014.

Prior to 2007, Yahoo! leased it data centers.  Starting that year, the technology company began building its own data centers.  Since that time, Yahoo! has been pushing towards greener, more sustainable design.  “Now, as we move more toward designing our own facilities, we have a real opportunity to set some goals,” said Page.

“That’s what makes the most sense as a strategy given what we’ve learned over the past two years. It wasn’t a spotlight about offsets. It was how we can drive the industry around efficiency.”

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