In early 2007, Google quietly filed a patent application for a water-based data center design. The design was described as incorporating a “platform-mounted computer data center with sea-water based electrical generation and sea-water cooling.” Fast forward to 2013, and WiredRE has confirmed via credible sources that Google is now deploying, in whole or in part, ocean-based data centers. The patent application for the Google data center design can be found via the patent and trade office’s website (Click Here for Google PTO Application).
Practical applications of a data center based in international waters are numerous. The tax benefits are obvious, but what about intelligence gathering? WiredRE has no data to confirm or deny either at this stage; however, we’d like to ask Google to consider building an autonomous, self-powered, water-based data center than would consume degraded plastic as fuel.
Most people are unaware, but much of the plastic created by man ends up in the ocean. Once on the open water, currents aggregate the plastic in the Pacific Gyre, which is a kind of toilet bowl swirl in the Pacific Ocean. Over time the plastic turns into a soupy mess, quietly degrading, and growing into a floating layered mass the size of Texas. Given that the plastic is in international waters, no country will claim responsibility or pursue its remediation, until of course there’s a crisis. This is where Google comes in.
Wouldn’t it be possible for Google’s floating data center design to use this plastic as fuel? Google is developing numerous technologies, including autonomous automobile navigation systems and the water-based data center that would enable this solution. By modifying the navigation software to drive autonomous skimmers, plastic could be gathered up and delivered to a nearby combustion chamber. Plastic has a high-BTU content, and emissions aside, it would make an excellent fuel. The plastic could power an old-fashioned, ship-mounted boiler, which have been used in ships for centuries, generating steam for a utility-scale generator.
From there, it’s simple, and presumably Google has solved the telecommunications issues. You never know, perhaps Google’s concepts will enable the first Pacific Gyre “plastic” rush.