Chicken Stink Technology Inspires Yahoo Engineers

Dennis Faas's picture

Yahoo has announced the opening of a new data center that uses wind power to drastically improve its electric efficiency. The technology used is based on chicken coops and fowl smells.

Data Centers Power Hungry for Electricity

Data centers, which process information on a huge scale, are a huge problem when it comes to energy efficiency. That's because, as you'll probably have experienced by using a notebook computer on your lap or touching the case of a desktop computer after prolonged use, processors build up a lot of heat as they work. It also takes a lot of energy running fans to keep components from overheating.

Major tech companies use a range of techniques to make the cooling process more efficient. One recent development involves encasing processor equipment inside a tank that is filled with warm water: as the water cools, it cools down the equipment as well. Other techniques are less sophisticated: some firms simply house data centers in cold countries such as Iceland.

Chicken Coop Design Mirrored

Yahoo's new center in Lockport, New York mirrors designs chicken farmers use to deal with the unpleasant odors of their flock. They arrange coops in line with the most common wind trajectory, thus removing the smell, most of the time.

The Yahoo approach copies this with a series of long and tall buildings in line with wind, which helps the cooling process. According to Yahoo figures, it means a 40 per cent reduction in the amount of power needed to run the entire center. (Source:

Power Use Almost Entirely Waste Free

The company also reports a power usage effectiveness of 1.08. That means that for every 108 units of electricity used in the facility, 100 are actually used for computing purposes, with only the remaining eight going to other uses such as lighting and keeping equipment cool.

To put things into context, industry estimates range from 1.92 to 2.5, the latter meaning that most of the energy consumed in the building is effectively wasted. (Source:

There are some sacrifices of the new design: it means the company won't be able to maximize the number of servers it has in each building. However, Yahoo believes that overall the lower power bills will mean the facility is financially more efficient as well as being less environmentally harmful.

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