The Syracuse University Green Data Center uses novel techniques such as trigeneration with microturbines and absorption chillers to reduce energy use, creating a model its designers hope to replicate with other data centers as computer energy consumption soars.

On an overcast February day with snow on the ground and slush on the roads, I turn left and make my way through the South Campus at Syracuse University in upstate New York, about a mile from the main campus. I could’ve turned right for a tour of the main campus and a peek inside the famous Carrier Dome, where the Syracuse Orangemen play football and basketball, but that would have to wait until later. I come to a nondescript, gray, nearly windowless building, and I know I’m at the right place because I see cooling towers on the roof…

Capstone MicroturbinesFast-Track Design-Build Effort

The project consisted of two parallel design-build efforts that eventually merged. BHP Energy and GEM, Inc. handled design and construction of the power plant portion of the project, which included a trigeneration system and the incoming electrical distribution.

Headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, GEM is a large mechanical-electrical construction firm, and BHP Energy is a design firm owned by GEM. BHP is headquartered in Hudson, Ohio, a Toledo suburb, and has offices in Toledo and Saratoga Springs, New York. The data center building itself and architectural design fell under VIP Structures in Syracuse. They retained an MEP (mechanical-electrical-plumbing) engineering firm, Towne Engineering of Utica, New York. Taking this approach, the team actually built the facility in 188 days to meet the deadline.

In reflecting on that, David Blair, president of BHP Energy and an electrical engineer, says, “It was probably the high point of my career. It was one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever been part of. I’m not a big fan of meetings, but the meetings at Syracuse were something I looked forward to. It was always an exciting experience because you had synergy when you bring a group of people together and you give them a goal of going beyond what’s been done before.”