Last week, a post on Google's official blog announced a project that allows users to step inside the private world of its data centers. For the first time, the company's impressive efficiency records and green ethos have been given a face in the form of the stunning photographs by Connie Zhou and the Street View-able hallways of the Lenoir facility in North Carolina.

Google has an impressive record when it comes to data center efficiency. In July, I wrote about the company's impressive efforts to ensure that its services have a minimal impact of the environment. Mountain View's data centers use around half the energy of industry typical facilities, demonstrating a power usage efficiency of 1.13 (where 1.0 is a perfect rating and 1.92 is typical), and that number is only expected to fall.

The company constructs its own facilities, is careful to regulate temperatures through environmentally friendly means (such as recycled water), and even attempts to select sites based on their naturally occurring resources.

But thanks to the company's clockwork reporting methods, we already knew all this about its data centers. What we didn't know is just how beautiful it makes them in the process.

This shot, a view from behind the server aisle, could have been lifted directly out of a blockbuster sci-fi movie. The fans in this space funnel the hot air from the server racks into the cooling units, ready for recirculation. The green lights aren't just for show here, they're actually the reflections from thousands of server status LEDs.

These color-coded pipes in the company's Oregon data center aren't just there to look awesome, they serve a practical purpose too. The blue pipes carry cold water for cooling and the red pipes return the warm water back to the cooling facility. We're sure the yellow ones do something equally important.

Here you can see one of the company's tape library back-up systems in its facility in Berkeley County, South Carolina. Look carefully and you'll see a number of robotic arms that load and unload the tapes as and when required. Every tape has a unique barcode that helps the robotic system get around.

This is the campus network room in the company's Council Bluffs facility in Iowa. The fiber optic network that runs along the yellow cables near the ceiling runs at speeds up to 200,000 times faster than a typical home connection.

That's just a taste of what is available over at the company's new Where the Internet lives site, and you can also take a look inside the Lenoir, North Carolina center using Street View.

Navigate your way up the stairs and past the office water cooler and you'll be rewarded with the reassuring (and slightly confusing) sight of a stormtrooper and R2D2 standing guard on the facility floor.

Google is continuing to work hard to ensure its services stay green. The company recently announced a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA). The deal differs from previous PPAs that Google has entered into, in that it is partnering with the GRDA utility provider in order to source the clean energy from the Canadian Hills wind farm. In the past Google has largely dealt directly with energy providers.

The server floor at the Lenoir data center in North Carolina

Google isn't the only company seeking to improve its green energy credentials. Apple is currently in the process of constructing the largest end user-owned, onsite solar array in the U.S. at a site in Maiden, North Carolina. The site is a 100-acre (40.5-hectare), 20-megawatt facility that will provide the facility with 42 million kWh of renewable energy per year. The facility is nearing completion, with the majority of panels already installed.

For more information on Google's data centers and for a look at the new data center street view, be sure to check out the video below.

Sources: Google, GigaOM

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