Since Google filed for a patent on floating data centres, tongues have been wagging as to the potential environmental impact of such a concept.
What is interesting about this is quite how a patent could or would be granted. Installing a data centre out at sea has been done before (look at the Principality of Sealand).
Wave power has been being harnessed for quite some time (the Aguçadora Wave Park claims to be the world’s first commercial wave farm).
Using sea water to provide cooling has been done before (Sweden has been using water to provide cooling from the Baltic Sea since 1995).
So what exactly is unique in the concept that would allow our friends at Google to patent?
Quite apart from the patent issue, the idea sounds like another good one. Certainly, using wave power to generate electricity for a data centre is very environmentally friendly.
Whether it would be possible to generate sufficient power for a decent sized data centre is questionable, but even partial generation is good!
Using sea water, which at sufficient depth is at a constant temperature and could be used directly for chilled water cooling without any additional refrigeration would be very environmentally friendly.
Even at less depth, the sea tends to be relatively cold and could be used with very little additional refrigeration.
The concept is good, the environmental credentials are good, the practicalities may prove difficult and the challenges great.
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