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Big Savings for REI

Data center retrofit cuts cooling costs by 93%
REI is always on the lookout for ways to reduce its energy consumption and decrease its environmental impact.

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Retailers are constantly on the hunt for energy savings, and data centers offer huge potential: By 2020, data centers could consume 10% of all U.S. power, according to some experts. Here’s how outdoor gear and apparel retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) is working to reduce energy costs and its environmental footprint in this critical area of operations.

REI has long been on the leading-edge of efforts to conserve energy and reduce its overall impact on the environment. Its most recent effort involves a retrofit of the layout and cooling system of its data center in Kent, Wash.

The initiative, done in partnership with Austin, Texas-based energy efficiency firm CleaResult, Austin, Texas, and utility provider Puget Sound Energy, has resulted in a 93% reduction in the cooling energy used to operate the facility.

The retrofit uses “free cooling” via a rooftop evaporator cooling tower to keep servers at optimal temperature. The system, from CleaResult, reduces the need for mechanical cooling nearly year-round, or about 8,672 hours annually.

REI estimates that the retrofit saves energy to power six of its stores, or approximately 2.2 million kilowatt hours a year. The efficiencies also translate into improved business resiliency and stability in the event of a regional power outtage.

In addition to rooftop cooling technology, the retrofit included the upgrade of backup battery banks, the removal of old power distribution units and the installation of floor brush barriers and curtain systems to contain cold air in critical areas.

Also, the subfloor cabling was rewired to optimize airflow under the raised floor. Because of the efficiencies gained, REI also reconfigured its redundant power supply.

“By examining our operations through a sustainability lens, we’ve achieved financial and environmental benefits and met our goals to increase efficiency, minimize disruptions and reduce our footprint,” said Kirk Myers, corporate social responsibility manager, REI.