Chicago and Quincy, Wash., Top List of Green Data Center Locations

Chicago and Quincy, Wash., Top List of Green Data Center Locations

Chicago is the greenest city to build a data center, beating out locations in Washington state, California and other presumably eco-minded locations, according to a recent survey of data center locations.

Chicago barely beat out Quincy, Wash., for the top spot in the survey conducted by data center consultants Base Partners and engineering company Glumac. The survey looked at the carbon emissions generated by a hypothetical 135,000 square foot data center in 21 cities, and found that a Windy City location would result in the least amount of emissions over the course of a year.

Both Chicago and Quincy were far ahead of the other sites, either of them producing far fewer than the nearly 40,000 tons of CO2 emitted by the third-place location, San Jose, Calif.

"As we talk with enterprise users, we're seeing a lot of pressure on costs and a new focus on internal sustainability programs," Aaron Wangenheim, president of Base Partners, told ComputerWorld's Johanna Ambrosio. "The data center is one of the biggest environmental offenders, because it's one of the largest users of electricity. Our clients want to know what they can do to save money and do something good for the environment that's not going to cost a lot."

Although Chicago is greenest overall, the groups' study looked at both carbon emissions and energy costs. Based solely on the latter category, Quincy, Westport, Penn., and Miami rank highest, with Chicago placing a distant seventh.

Low carbon emissions coupled with cheap energy make Quincy an ideal location for large-scale data centers, but Wangenheim told ComputerWorld that there are complications in building remote data centers, including insufficient infrastructure and a lack of skilled technicians to work in the facilities.

He and and Glumac's Michael Steinmann gave several suggestions for the best ways to save money and reduce emissions when building or upgrading data centers. Among the ideas they offer are basing cost estimates on the product's entire life-cycle, not just the original investment cost. Energy efficient technologies can cost more than standard products, but over the course of several years can save significant money in energy bills.