eBay Goes from Green to Gold

By: Dean Nelson

Here at Green Team Talks, we spend a lot of time addressing the small things that we can do in our daily routines to contribute to a healthier planet. At eBay, there is a team of people that sit within our IT and operations team, whose daily routines include running the data centers that power the millions of transactions that take place on eBay. And when these guys make small changes, big things happen.

Today, the eBay Green Team welcomes one of them as our newest guest contributor. Dean Nelson, who joined eBay from Sun Microsystems last year, has been leading a team of more than 180 employees and key partners to integrate smart, green thinking into the data centers and drive down the energy it takes to run our business. Earlier this year, Dean and his team raised the curtain on a brand new state-of-the-art green data center just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, and this week, we are thrilled to announce that that data center went from green to gold – LEED Gold.

When I started at eBay last year, my new team was in the thick of implementing the largest single infrastructure investment that eBay had ever tackled – the Topaz data center. It was a strategic investment to increase the stability of eBay’s data centers and enable growth. It was also the first data center that we had built from the ground up, and the centerpiece of a multi-year plan to consolidate eBay’s data center footprint from a number of co-located facilities to fewer eBay-owned, operated, and managed centers. Our data centers make up more that 50% of our global power usage. I pay that power bill, so economical and ecological efficiency is a must, and Topaz was the project where we would prove that we could do it.

From the beginning of the design process, every construction decision was looked at with energy efficiency and environmental responsibility in mind. We are also able to make use of Utah’s cool and dry climate to cool the data center for over half of the year which enables the facility to shut down expensive to run chillers.

This month, the team got some great news – the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the facility the prestigious LEED® Gold certification, verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). Topaz becomes one of only a small handful of data centers on U.S. soil to achieve LEED Gold – a pretty major accomplishment considering the availability and security requirements needed to run eBay AND PayPal’s servers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Some of Topaz’s green features that helped pave the way for LEED certification include:

  • The collection of rainwater to offset city water use
  • The ability to use low outside air temperatures to reduce electrical costs for cooling our servers
  • The use of low emitting materials throughout construction
  • The use of over 20% recycled and regional building materials in the facility construction
  • The use of a chemical free water treatment system
  • Best practice heating ventilation design for office space comfort

The award comes two years after eBay’s first LEED Gold certification – which went to the “Mint” building at our San Jose North campus. The facility was the city of San Jose’s first LEED Gold building, still houses the city’s largest solar array, and now boasts five Bloom boxes that allow us to generate our own clean power 24/7. This year, we are also starting to experiment with renewable energy at our data centers, and installed a 100 kW array at a small data center in Denver, CO.

With our LEED certification in our back pocket, our team stands a little taller today, but we know this is just the beginning. As consumers do more and more of their shopping online, it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that this new kind of commerce can be better for the planet. And managing the energy and technology that make this kind of commerce possible is exactly where we are focused.

Top Photo credit: © RTKL.com/David Whitcomb