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Wind turbines could power the data centers of the future — the ingenious company making it happen calls it a 'no-brainer'

The turbines can provide up to 92% of the energy needed for the data centers with wind.

The turbines can provide up to 92% of the energy needed for the data centers with wind.

Photo Credit: iStock

Access to near-infinite knowledge comes at a cost. 

That's because processing all the online data that we rely on daily accounts for up to 1.5% of the world's electricity use, according to the International Energy Agency. 

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But, a project in Germany is building data centers inside wind turbines as part of a plan to power our search engines with renewable energy, a direct solution for electricity-hungry computers. 

"If you look at the sustainability pyramid, the highest form of sustainability is using things that already exist," windCORES managing director Fiete Dubberke told CNN.  

The company was founded in 2018, though CNN reported that planning for the project began about 10 years ago at a wind park in the city of Paderborn. The data centers are connected to the internet via fiber optic cables. The company says the connection is "professional and fast." 

It's a concept that originated from an unlikely problem: too much power. The wind turbines were producing more than the grid could handle during peak gusty hours. As a result, the wind farm was powered down, as CNN reported. 

So, windCORES officials decided to bypass the grid — a plan that Dubberke told CNN became a "no-brainer," as it uses what was just empty space in the structure. 

Energizing powerful computers is a problem being tackled elsewhere, as well. Google is experimenting with geothermal tech, using Earth's heat to create electricity for data centers. In Texas, utility officials have paid Bitcoin miner Riot to power down during peak electricity usage hours, as the computer energy needed to process the cryptocurrency data is considerable. 

Diversifying our energy sources and how we use them is important for the planet and our pocketbooks. Simply switching to LED lightbulbs can save you thousands of dollars, for example. 

"In the long run, society is to be changed to green and sustainable — one day you will get green electricity directly from anywhere," Dubberke said to CNN. 

The turbines, which can potentially hold server racks that are more than 492 feet tall, can provide up to 92% of the energy needed for the data centers with wind on average. But when the breeze is calm, CNN reported that the processors are powered by other renewables, including solar and hydro projects, from the grid. The company notes that each rack can save about 15.4 tons of air pollution per year. 

The turbine-fueled data racks are serving 150 clients of all sizes. One example is a Swiss TV streaming business, Zattoo, which has "several million monthly users," per CNN. 

"The main reason why we decided to kick off this project, and spend the time making it work, was because they were green," Zattoo official Viliyana Ivanova told the news agency.  

Green Software Foundation Chairperson Asim Hussain, while not involved in the project, sees it as a way to connect cyberspace with the natural world. 

"In the engineering space, we're so disconnected from nature," he said to CNN. "Whereas with this project, you're connected with wind fully, and you're trying to engineer solutions that are aligned with nature and work with nature."

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