Holyoke high performance computing center scores high on U.S. Green Building Council’s environmental rating


Read this story at the Springfield Republican.

The high performance computing center downtown has received a top grade for being environmentally friendly. The U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization, has given the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, as it is officially known, its highest rating of platinum certification, officials said this week.


The rating is based on the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) ranking system and shows the computing center’s commitment to sustainable energy and improved environmental performance, officials said.

Sustainable energy, based on efficiency and renewable sources, is energy used in the present that doesn’t compromise future generations’ needs.

The computing facility is a data center dedicated to research computing. It is operated by the research-intensive Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts, Northeastern University and Boston University, as well as EMC Corp., of Hopkinton, an information storage, backup and recovery firm, and Cisco Systems Inc., a California-based Internet network equipment maker.

The center consists of more than 16,000 computers doing high-speed analysis of data officials have said could include designing drugs, or understanding the formation of galaxies, climate change, cell structures and the arts.

The center is a 90,000-square-foot, 10-megawatt facility on an 8.6-acre former industrial site overlooking the first-level canal of the Holyoke Gas and Electric Department’s (HG&E) hydroelectric system.(One megawatt equals 1 million watts. A light bulb uses 25 to 100 watts and a refrigerator 150 to 300 when active, for example,according to rapidtables.com).

The location at the canals and available, sustainable energy are why the colleges and companies built the center here.

Among the computing center’s noted “green” steps: It uses outside air to chill water to cool computers, requiring the activation of its cooling machinery only 30 percent of the time; uses a chilled water storage tank that lets the center activate the chilling machinery, when the air outside is too warm, at off-peak hours when electricity rates are lower; containment areas and a variable-speed fanning system allow for regulation of temperature and pressure; and of the material used to build the center, 25 percent was recycled, said Pamela Jonah of Howell Communications, of Boston, which represents the center.

“As our name indicates, environmental sustainability and stewardship are a huge part of who we are,” center Executive Director John T. Goodhue said.

Mayor Alex B. Morse said the U.S. Green Building Council’s top ranking of the computing center is another example of how Holyoke is a center of innovation.

Besides the city’s benefit of hydropower, HG&E is a strong user of solar energy. The department is working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use the canals here as a “test bed” for new hydroelectric technologies and the North East Sustainable Energy Association is running a student design competition on energy-efficient buildings using four Holyoke sites, he said.

“This activity and the (computing center’s latest) certification shows the effervescence
of green-energy-related innovation that is just getting started in the city, and that supports the spirit of innovation in other areas of technology and craftsmanship that has taken hold in Holyoke,” Morse said.