IT Cooling Using Natural Refrigerants

The Alpine city of Innsbruck in Austria has long benefited from the crystal-clear spring water that seeps from deep within the nearby mountains. It can be sampled at the many public drinking fountains in the city and is also supplied to many households. The system relies on a sophisticated network of tunnels and tanks.

Recently, local facilities company IKB decided to put a disused underground tank in the network to use by installing a data centre in the empty space. “The old tank was built with one-metre-thick concrete walls, and the plan was to use that for the servers and then construct a new building for the cooling equipment and the control systems,” says Alexander Streit, Managing Partner of construction company Streit-TGA. The company, based in Holzkirchen, 30km south of Munich, Germany, was contracted to supply the entire cooling plant. It specialises in modular construction, so the plant was prefabricated at its headquarters, and then transported in separate parts via a two-hour drive to Innsbruck.

When it comes to cooling, Streit-TGA is a pioneer within the design and construction industry, having taken the decision in 2020 to only use natural refrigerants in its refrigeration systems.

“USING NATURAL REFRIGERANTS JUST MAKES SENSE. AS WELL AS THE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS, WE CAN ACHIEVE THE SAME SCOPE IN OUR PROJECTS, BUT WITH GREATER EFFICIENCIES AND LOWER COSTS FOR OUR CUSTOMERS.”
ALEXANDER STREIT MANAGING PARTNER, STREIT-TGA

Streit believes the strategy has given his company an important first-mover advantage in the market. “I think suppliers who don’t follow us will have problems in the next few years, because customers are increasingly asking for natural solutions,” he says. “And there are two reasons for that. The first is that they are increasingly focused on their environmental responsibility. And the second is that the follow-up costs with natural refrigerants are much lower than with synthetics.”

One of Streit-TGA’s areas of expertise is the construction of data centres, in particular with a focus on low-energy solutions. “For that reason, it’s very important for us to use components that are as efficient as possible,” says Streit.

Case study data centre austria contentjpg

Data centres generate an enormous amount of heat, and it’s essential to keep facilities at an ideal temperature 24/7 in order to prevent critical IT equipment from overheating, causing costly downtime. That means a high-quality cooling system is vital, but it also needs to be efficient: saving energy isn’t just an environmental concern for data centre managers – it has a significant impact on profitability.

In order to evaluate which cooling system would be most effective in the Innsbruck data centre, and how it could operate with maximum efficiency, Streit-TGA took advantage of myGPC, the Güntner Product Configurator that’s available for use as part of the myGüntner online customer portal. This can identify the optimum cooling system for any scenario. The software provides a quick and reliable thermodynamic calculation and proposal based on various parameters, such as the desired refrigerant, ambient humidity and evaporator and condenser temperatures. Noise was also a factor in this case, because there were homes in the vicinity.

The best solution was found to be two Güntner V-shape VARIO Dry Coolers, using propane as the refrigerant. The environmentally-friendly system, operated via a GMMnext smart controller, offers high energy efficiency and low noise, together with the use of minimum space. In addition, myGPC was used to determine the different operating points and partial load functions of the system, ensuring maximum efficiency and resource-saving. “The reason we used a Güntner cooling system in this case was because it offered the lowest possible energy consumption,” says Streit. “And it also offered the choice of natural refrigerants.”

“THIS PROJECT WAS A REAL CHALLENGE, BECAUSE IT WAS TECHNICALLY COMPLEX AND ALSO REQUIRED LOW ENERGY USE. BUT WORKING TOGETHER WITH OUR CUSTOMER, WE FOUND THE BEST – AND MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY – SOLUTION.”
WOLFGANG ULRICH TECHNICAL SALES ENGINEER, GÜNTNER