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ACT Data Center Passes LEED Platinum Test

act-leedIf there’s one thing the people at ACT know, it’s how to take a test. When it came to making the grade for a new data center, ACT, the national testing organization, became the first organization in the nation to have its data center certified to the platinum level of LEED by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Based in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT administers college-entrance tests to high school students.

The new data center was built to withstand natural disasters, including tornadoes. It has an energy-efficient geothermal system which ACT says is unique among data centers. Traditionally, geothermal power is not compatible with data centers, because of the heat generated and the need to keep the machines cool. In this application, the heat transfer loops are buried in the ground and the remainder of the equipment sets within the tornado resistant facility, according to a press release.

Because of its location, the cooling source is protected from 250 mph wind speed, projectiles and vandalism.

A separate energy efficient system incorporates dry coolers to add redundancy for the primary geothermal loop. In the winter, the dry cooler system will sometimes be more efficient than the ground-source system.

Here are some other facets of the operation:

  • Enhanced indoor air quality due to air quality control systems and increased ventilation rates that are more than 30 percent greater than code requirements
  • Reduced energy usage from high-performance HVAC systems
  • Recycled content in more than 30 percent of the total building materials
  • Restored native prairie landscaping on 90 percent of the site, requiring no irrigation
  • Renewable materials like cork flooring, cotton-wall insulation, aspen fiber ceiling panels, and agrifiber wood doors

Another building dedicated to education has undergone improvements designed to LEED standards.

A Higher Education Center in Medford, Ore., is being built to obtain LEED platinum, according to the Mail Tribune.

The building is adding a rooftop solar array, funded by $285,000 from the U.S. Department of Education from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2009, plus $92,000 in renewable energy tax credits from the Energy Trust of Oregon.

The panels will produce 55 kilowatts of energy (71,000 kilowatts a year) and reduce the building’s electricity bill by 10 percent, resulting in a savings, at 7.2 cents a kilowatt, or $5,170 a year, he said. The cost of the project is about $400,000, according to the article, meaning that it would take 77 years for the building to recoup the total costs paid by ACT and taxpayers, based on today’s electricity costs, if the panels or the building were to last that long.

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One thought on “ACT Data Center Passes LEED Platinum Test

  1. My payback calculations are quite a bit different than those stated. These folks are no dummies. They score LEED points for putting the solar on their facility, and they had an article written about it because it’s tough to reach LEED Platinum and it’s a data center (BIG PR value). Then do the math: $400,000 minus the $285,000 grant, minus the $92,000 in tax credits yields an out-of-pocket cost of $23,000. Then, take 30% off of that for the Federal Investment Tax Credit ($6,900), and you get to a cost of $16,100 after the taxes are filed for THIS year. That’s a 96% discount on a $400,000 system, and therefore a 3.1 year payback if you ONLY look at the small energy cost savings at one of the lowest electricity rates in the country. This system will generate 71 solar renewable energy credits (if eligible in Iowa), which are selling for roughly $300 each (and up to $600) on the open market. That’s a pre-tax INCOME of $21,300 for EACH YEAR of the 25-30 year lifetime that this system is cranking out electricity (assuming there is a market for SRECs for that period), plus the increased annual savings due to the escalating costs of electricity, that means they’re getting about 50% of their energy costs paid for in the early years due to the savings and SREC income. I’d say this was a damn smart purchase, with it being a money MAKER for them, and a payback of perhaps a year and a half (just waiting for the money). Plus, they’ve reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 75,386 lbs of CO2 EACH YEAR. That’s the equivalent of planting 5.83 acres of trees, or not driving a car 90,463 miles. It’s a shame the author missed the real payback on this. The incentives are necessary, and the benefits are long-lasting — reduced pollution, reduced greenhouse impact, reduced peak demand which lessens the need to build new power plants, energy production on-site which saves another 20-40% of electricity NOT generated and lost due to transmissions inefficiencies and line losses. It is a smart purchase that other companies should consider.

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