Aliyun, Alibaba’s cloud services business, has launched a new energy-efficient data centre on the banks of Qiandao Lake in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.

The cloud division’s eighth global facility, is cooled with water funnelled from the neighbouring man-made lake. According to Alibaba, lake water cooling allows the data centre to cool its equipment free of charge for 90% of the year, cutting related energy bills by around 80%.

In line with Alibaba’s sustainability efforts, the centre has been designed to reach an annual average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.3, and a Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) below 0.2.

Local reports following the success of the centre explained that 17°C lake water is pumped up from a depth of 35m below the surface, where there are no fluctuations in temperature.

As seen in other cases natural water cooling can have devastating effects on local wildlife. To prevent environmental damage, the water used in the Aliyun centre is cooled through a 2.5km canal running through Qingxi New Town, before returning to the lake. In the future, the cloud company hopes to use the waste heat to warm nearby buildings.

The data centre is also powered by renewable energies, including solar and hydroelectric systems. Wang Jian, Alibaba CTO, said that the facility is expected to save tens of millions of kilowatt hours of energy every year, compared to a centre employing mechanical cooling methods.

“At the AliCloud Qiandao Lake Data Centre, every drop of water contributes to the future of cloud computing and big data. With its smart use of lake water for cooling and recycling, [it] combines the best of natural resources with the comforts of modern city life and state-of-the-art technology in a unique way,” Jian added.

Otherwise known as the thousand-island lake, Qiandao was created in 1959 to feed a hydroelectric dam. The lake measures 573sq.km and contains 1,078 large islands, and a few thousand smaller islets. The ancient ruins of Shi Cheng, or Lion City, also lie submerged at a depth of 26-40m.