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Iron Mountain's Experimental Room 48 87

twailgum writes "Twenty-two stories underground in Iron Mountain's Western Pennsylvania facility, 'you'll find Room 48, an experiment in data center energy efficiency. Open for just six months, the room is used by Iron Mountain to discover the best way to use geothermal conditions and engineering designs to establish the perfect environment for electronic documents. Room 48 is also being used to devise a geothermal-based environment that can be tapped to create efficient, low-cost data centers.'"
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Iron Mountain's Experimental Room 48

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  • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @10:44AM (#30376846) Homepage Journal
    The Iron Mountain facility in PA is recycling a old limestone mine, so it didn't cost them anything (extra) to dig out the space.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @10:47AM (#30376886) Journal
    Geothermal energy to heat homes is either renewable or cheap, not both at the same time.

    I had a colleague from Europe, where geothermal heating was very popular in 1980s. What they did not realize was that the earth is such a insulator that the available "heat" from the ground slowly gets used up and over some 20 years there is nothing left, the earth surrounding the buried pipe got so cold and the heat from the surrounding does not flow in fast enough.

    Not an insurmountable problem. They should pump heat back into the ground in summer by using the same pipes as the radiator for their A/C. But if they cheap out during installation, the geothermal heat wont be renewable.

  • by Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:03AM (#30377028) Homepage

    Well, if you don't want any geothermal heat for electricity, you can use one of these for just cooling.

    I worked for an outfit where I had to audit a facility that was built in an old Limestone Quarry (basically a flat underground mine, not an open pit mine) there were 3 million square feet of useful space underground around 80-100 feet deep. There are lots of these facilities in the Kansas City area, most of them are used for warehousing.

    Anyhow for our needs it was constant temperature in the 60s and constant humidity, unfortunately despite poured concrete floors, and cinder block partition walls, there was a lot of dust from the unpainted ceilings. Also folks periodically found rocks in their workspaces that would fall from the ceiling.

    It worked really well for paper records, but until we dealt with the dust, it played merry hell with our drive arrays.

  • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:55AM (#30377562)

    I am from the area, and the Pennsylvania mine was almost solely government records for a long time. Iron Mountain took over in the late 90's. You see Iron Mountain trucks all over Pittsburgh collecting records now.

  • by Tired and Emotional ( 750842 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @01:37PM (#30378686)
    ... a direct hit by a Sarah Palin
  • by AdmiralAl ( 1136661 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:06PM (#30378986) Homepage
    I currently work in one of these Kansas City area limestone caves. My company runs a datacenter/colo here and we don't run into this problem of dust playing merry hell with the drive arrays. The solution...paint the ceiling and install ceiling tiles to create a "normal" room. No rocks, no dust, just a clean and efficient datacenter.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:29PM (#30379258) Journal
    Will find citations about this problem. Essentially Geothermal building heating systems bury a large loop of pipe in the ground well below the frost line and circulate water through them. They use a heat pump (air conditioner running in reverse) with the ground as the source and the building as the sink. You need to put in mechanical energy to keep the system going. Figure of merit is the measure of how many units of heat is delivered to the building for each unit of energy used to drive the heat pump. Back when I was doing Thermody I (thank you Dr Bhaskar and Dr Venkatesh) this number was between 6 and 8. Now a days I see high efficiency aircons with efficicency ration in the 12, 13 or 14. Not sure if this is directly figure of merit of the heat pump or some factor involved.

    Coming to the "earth heat being used up", essentially as the pump operates the earth in immediate contact with the buried loop starts cooling down and heat from further up would "flow" towards the buried loop. After running this system for decades there will be temperature gradient next to the loop. Most places in USA the frost line is 42 inches. That is no matter how cold the air gets, it can not raise the temp 42 inches below the ground above freezing! Shows how good an insulator earth is.

    After two decades of operation the ground next to the loop reaches freezing temp. There is the temperature gradient, even though the temperature beyond three of four feet is much above freezing and places six to eight feet from the loop is practically not affected by heat pump running for decades, the heat pump becomes very very inefficient.

  • Re:Typo? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @05:54PM (#30381582)

    I actually did mean 4C.
    Average temperatures around here range from -40C to +30 (more so towards the -40) so it is rather cold just below surface and leading up to ~25-30C at 8800ft range.

    Aside from my earlier comments each mine will be different however (hardrock/softrock/etc...)

    In our particular environment, hardrock along a fault water is a bit of a problem.
    Diesel soot and dust would also be a major issue if it weren't for the fact the current active workings are far below 2 level. (The PC's that come up from 30 level are mind bogglingly dirty)

    Seismiscity caused by daily blasts isn't really an issue either since proper blasting techniques minimize vibration which could be structurally damaging.
    Even if it were though... All our buildings sit on bedrock so... If it's gonna shake... It's gonne shake!

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley