Facebook's New Fort Worth Data Center To Rely Exclusively On Renewable Energy

Facebook on Wednesday announced plans to build a new data center in Fort Worth, Texas. This will be the social network's fifth data center, with the other four located in Altoona, Iowa; Prineville, Oregon; Forest City, North Carolina; and Luleå, Sweden. It will be one of the most advanced, efficient, and sustainable data centers in the world, as it will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

To help make that possible, Facebook is constructing a 200-megawatt wind energy plant on 17,000 acres located about 90 miles away in Clay County. That's overshooting Facebook's needs, so spare energy will go into the local grid via Citigroup Energy, Alterra Power Corporation, and Starwood Energy Group. Facebook says it expects to deliver clean energy to the grid by 2016.

Data Center

"Two hundred megawatts is more energy than we will need for the foreseeable future, and we're proud to have played a role in bringing this project to Texas," said Ken Patchett, Director of Data Center Operations, West Region.

The data center will bring new jobs and investment opportunities. There's a lot involved with building and maintaining these mammoth facilities, both in terms of construction and long-term operations. Usually you can add cooling to the list as well, though in this case, the data center will be cooled by outside air rather than energy-intensive air conditioners.

Yes, outside air, even in Texas. How so? As Facebook explained to Wired several years ago, it uses an evaporative cooling system that consists of spraying mists of water to cool the air down. Sometimes the air can be too hot and humid for this to work on its own, and when that happens, Facebook flips the switch on its direct expansion (DX) coil system. This dehumidifies the air, which then allows the evaporative system to be effective again.

Coke Condensation

"As high-temperature, high-humidity air passes over a cooling coil, the moisture gets precipitated out. It’s like putting a cold Coke can on the table and, within a couple of minutes, sweat starts pouring down the can," said Tom Furlong, Vice President of Data Center Site Operations at Facebook. "It sounds a little funky, but it works."

This same cooling setup is used at Facebook's Forest City and Prineville data centers.