It gets cold in Green Bay, WI - very cold. Yet until recently all that natural cooling was wasted at Associated Bank, which kept the air conditioners humming even during the dead of winter to keep its data center cool. So when the time came to expand the data center and upgrade the cooling systems executives at Associated Bank seized the opportunity to save some energy and money by tapping into the great outdoors.

Thanks to the efforts of executives who envisioned and sketched out a new type of cooling system not available on the market, and a Wisconsin state agency that provided expertise and a $116,000 grant, Associated Bank now has a glycol-based "free cooling" system at its two data centers. Glycol is akin to the antifreeze in a car. During the winter, pumps move the glycol around, allowing the outside air to cool the liquid, which in turn cools the data center. The compressor, a costly energy drain, stays off.

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