Japan: The White Data Center (WDC): Sustainability and the circular economy

Apr 14, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

The White Data Center (WDC) in Japan's North Island of Hokkaido, is a research project run by the city of Babai. It initially ran between 2014-2019, in collaboration with Japan's NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) research body. Its aim was to research how snow could be stored to use to cool data centers all year round. The WDC has now become a commercial project, and began operating in this capacity in April 2021. Diversifying the business, it has now started a new venture: Farming. 

In this next phase, the WDC has chosen to harvest both eels and mushrooms by using the cooled water from the cooling system that renders temperatures 33°C. On February 25th, 1,700 elvers (young eels) were released into tanks at a facility of WDC and it forecasts an annual shipment target of 300,000 eels for 2023. These eels will be marketed as "the first eel cultured in Hokkaido" and are set to be sold nationwide and offered for local school meals. Before settling on eels, abalone, sea urchin, Japanese mustard spinach and cherry tomatoes were also trialed. 

Kota Honma, a WDC director and chairman of the Bibai Nature Energy Research Association, commented: "The northernmost region where eels live in the wild is Aomori Prefecture," he said. "Eel farming has not been carried out in Hokkaido. We want to market Hokkaido-produced eels cultured in a hygienic indoor environment."

Meanwhile, WDC President & CEO Ijichi Shinichi said: "The next data center we plan to build will be ten times the size of the current one. In order to use energy efficiently, we're experimenting with vegetable cultivation and fish and seafood farming in greenhouses using waste heat produced by the servers during winter. We plan to turn this into a reality as the data center grows in scale."

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