CanShield and UBC Win NSERC Engage Grant for Innovative Cooling Solution

August 14th 2018

CanShield, a Kamloops data centre serving clients across Canada, is partnering with UBC Okanagan School of Engineering to analyze the potential use of geothermal energy in cooling data centres.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has approved an Engage Grant for UBC Okanagan towards this project, which has been underway since August 1, 2018 and will complete by January 31, 2019. CanShield Data Center is contributing both time and effort towards this collaborative endeavor. 

This is a timely research project considering the increasing demands for power usage by data centres globally. According to a 2017 article by Forbes, global data centres use approximately 3% of total power consumed today. The primary draw comes from the operational servers, but significant power is used to cool the IT equipment, thereby increasing a data centre's operational costs and environmental impact. 

Redundant and fault-tolerant cooling design throughout a data centre is essential for day-to-day operations, as overheating of equipment at a minimum can reduce server performance and, at worst, can damage equipment beyond repair. 

“It is extremely exciting to see CanShield and UBC Okanagan researching a solution focused on data centre cooling that involves geothermal energy,” stated George Emery, CanShield’s CEO. “This energy source is reliable, renewable and environmentally friendly. The advantages of geothermal can be significant in terms of meeting energy demands with a much less impactful carbon footprint compared to coal and fossil fuels.” 

Heavy costs for drilling geothermal reservoirs, establishing and operating geothermal plants and the heating/cooling systems are the main areas of concern that currently limit the use of this energy source by industry. The energy is abundantly there, yet research into cost-effective ways of utilizing it are key. 

Dr. Sunny Ri Li, Associate Professor at UBC Okanagan School of Engineering, Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, is the principal researcher carrying out the Analysis of geothermal cooling for data centres encompassed by the NSERC grant. 

Dr. Li is a registered Professional Engineer with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, and has done extensive research on thermofluidics, thermal management and cooling technologies. His areas of research interest include Advanced liquid/air cooling technologies for electronics and Thermal/fluid sciences in sustainable energy systems. 

George Emery, CEO of CanShield Data Center in Kamloops BC, is the Industry Partner in this innovative research project. George worked in the telecommunications industry for close to 15 years, helping to build large infrastructure projects in Eastern Canada. Following this, George worked at a Montreal based consultancy firm undertaking in-depth market analysis, while taking care of sales, marketing and financial management responsibilities. George earned his computer science and economics degree in England, followed by an MBA in Montreal.

This research project shows a commitment by government, education, and industry in Canada towards exploring sustainable energy sources for use by the industry. Findings will ideally inform future practices that will move data centres toward greater sustainability and, at the same time, benefit the Canadian economy and Canadians.

CanShield Data Center and UBC Okanagan School of Engineering acknowledge the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Cette recherche a été financée par le Conseil de recherches en sciences naturelles et en génie du Canada (CRSNG).