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Wyoming is Cool!

| On 10, Mar 2011

Jack Hipple

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of the state of Wyoming? Yellowstone Park? Ranches and cattle? Coal mining? Natural gas? Open space? Mountains? Did you thnk COLD? It may not be the coldest place in the US, but parts of it are close to the coldest in the winter. Unless you’re a skier, this may not seem like an attractive feature, but to whom might it be with a serious commercial aspect? When is cheap cold a good deal?

Well, many traditional industries such as oil refining and chemicals generate large quantities of heat during thier processing and this heat must be removed to enable safe operation and production of usable products. The most heavy concentrations of these industries are in places like Texas, Oklahoma, and Lousisiana where the raw materials are located. But what industry generates huge quantities of heat that doesn’t necessarily require a specific location for raw materials? Data processing centers!

In a fascinating Wall Street Journal article, March 8/2011, pA3, reporter Stephanie Simon describes a concerted effort by the state of Wyomng to attract data centers (and their relative high paying high tech jobs) to the state. As a basic refresher for those of you who didn’t go through physics or thermodynamics, the amount of surface area in a heat exchanger and the amount of cooling fluid required is directly proportional to the temperature difference between the hot fluid and the incoming cooling fluid. If a data center computer is rejecting heat at 120F for example, the difference between the cooling medium being 70F vs. 100F can change the capital cost of the cooling equipment by a factor of 2! On the Gulf Coast, it is not possible to use air as the sole cooling medium saving the cost and environmental impact of water use. However, when the air is constantly below 80F and of low humidity, it allows air instead of water (or refrigerants) to be used.

This effort is analogous to the use of braking waste heat to recharge batteries in hybrid cars.
What does your list of “negative” things look like? In what way might it be a positive?
Wyoming is cool!