Revolutionary Underwater Data Center in China Saves 30% Energy – Game Changer!

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Revolutionary Underwater Data Center in China Saves 30% Energy - Game Changer!
(Image: Globaltimes)

Sinking a data center into the sea offers several advantages: it requires no land space, can efficiently cool without the substantial water consumption of regular data centers, and experiences significantly fewer server failures, as noted by Microsoft in its Project Natick. In 2018, the company submerged a data center in the sea, and currently, the first commercial underwater data center is being constructed in China.

Named the Hainan Undersea Data Center, it rests off the coast of the eponymous island in the South China Sea. The initial two modules were submerged in April 2023, with a plan to install a total of 100 of these 1,300-ton heavy white containers at a depth of 35 meters by 2025.

They closely resemble those deployed by Microsoft and are also filled with nitrogen. According to Microsoft’s analysis, nitrogen is a reason for the electronics’ extended lifespan underwater, preventing corrosion due to its nitrogen atmosphere.

However, the highlight is its energy efficiency: by releasing server heat into the cool seawater, up to 30 percent of energy can be saved. Although this estimate assumes a rather inefficient cooling system, particularly efficient air-cooling on land isn’t feasible in warmer regions of the world.

A full server life underwater

Apart from cylinders filled with server racks, a relay module is submerged, containing the connection to the onshore station. The manufacturer claims a 25-year lifespan for these modules, surpassing the operational life of the installed computing technology significantly. Consequently, these containers would need to be retrieved and refilled multiple times within their lifespan.

Beijing Highlander Digital Technologies Co. Ltd. is constructing the data center, primarily known for developing electronics for maritime purposes. While companies like Tencent and China Telecom are cited as users, Highlander aims to globally market these modules. They won’t just serve traditional data centers but also provide computing power locally, such as on oil drilling platforms.

The manufacturer, in collaboration with an AI company, is currently pursuing a second project near Shanghai, set to be directly powered by energy from a wind farm. Highlander markets it as a net-zero data center—however, this likely pertains only to the operational energy requirements.

The Hainan location was deliberately chosen; the relatively warm water presents a high-tech challenge. The underwater data center aims to support the local tech industry. China’s government envisions not just establishing the world’s largest free trade port but also transforming the island into a high-tech hub, including a commercial spaceport.

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Carl Woodrow
A seasoned tech enthusiast and writer, Carl delves deep into emerging technologies, offering insightful analysis and reviews on the latest gadgets and trends.