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High-tech water systems help drive Apple's Reno iCloud project

Pipes wearing iWatches

The pipes supplying water to the data center are monitored just as closely as the air temperatures within the server closets. Any flow interruption or other issues with the supply (such as freezing, or contamination) could result in overheating problems that might otherwise jeopardize the reliability of the facilities' servers.

Reno Data Center

To keep things under control, the pipes are not only jacketed with insulation but also outfitted with sensors (the black block visible in the foreground on top of the pipe, above) that monitor flow and other aspects of the water supply.

Water chillers and evaporative cooling systems

The high tech, sophisticated water supply is required for stored water chillers that are used to efficiently keep racks of servers at optimal temperatures.

At its first LEED Platinum data center facility in Maiden, N.C., Apple developed a series of energy efficient programs, including sophisticated monitoring of power consumption and cooling requirements.

There, Apple is using a massive chilled water storage system (pictured below) that improves "chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours each day," the company noted.

Data Center

Apple's water chiller storage system in Maiden, NC

It adds that at night and during cool weather hours, "free" outside air cooling enables it to turn off its water chillers 75 percent of the time. The dry climate of Northern Nevada is likely to make such evaporative cooling even more effective.

"Cold-air containment pods, with variable-speed fans controlled to exactly match air flow to server requirements from moment to moment," enable "extreme precision in managing cooling distribution" the company notes in its report on environmental sustainability.

Apple Reno data center site

The initial small building in Reno appears to use a similar water chilling system on a smaller scale (visible above at the rear of the facility). Once the main facility is built, Apple's Reno data center will likely have a water system that's at least as large as the one in Maiden.