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Here’s why Sustainability needs to be top-of- mind for Data Centers

Did you know that some of the world’s largest data centers consume enough electricity to power as many as 80,000 homes?

In the last decade,

  1. The number of virtual workloads running on the world’s servers has risen six-fold 

  2. Global IP traffic has increased ten-fold 

  3. Data center storage capacity skyrocketed 25-fold

  4. The communications industry could use 20% of the world’s electricity by 2025… 

  5. …And generate 14% of global emissions by 2040 

Which makes you wonder… just how green is your data center?

Sustainability is now a top-of-mind issue in data center construction and management. And if it isn’t, it ought to be. The good news is that some hyperscale data center operators have today begun to put in measures to significantly reduce their own power use. They’ve realized it isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for their bottom lines too.

Take Google for example. Google’s data centers may be supporting seven times more computing power today than they did five years ago, but the company has not increased electricity usage. The company’s “carbon-intelligent” data center design shifts workloads automatically to maximize the use of carbon-neutral power sources.

By definition, what is a green data center?

Simply put, a sustainable data center is a service facility which utilizes energy-efficient technologies. 

Here are three ways data centers can reduce their carbon footprint.

1. Explore new power sources

Like solar and wind, or ‘green’ hydrogen. While solar and wind can prove to be very expensive, they can be useful as an ancillary power supply. Hydrogen on the other hand is a clean-burning energy carrier whose only emission is water vapour. It can be used with very high efficiency to produce power and heat. In 2020, national hydrogen strategies were released by Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands. 

A number of large data centers have started tying up with renewable energy providers to create a cost-effective sustainable solution. Echelon for instance struck a deal in Ireland, co-locating grid infrastructure on a data center campus, facilitating the provision of more than 520MW of wind energy to the national grid.

2. Cool it right

The right cooling solutions can help create a more sustainable data center. About 40% of the power consumed by data centers goes to air-conditioning used to cool equipment. But using the right cooling strategy can mitigate that. There are a number of innovative solutions in this area. One company based in Amsterdam for instance took the operating principle of the thermal wheel, used for decades to heat buildings, and reversed it for use in data centers resulting in an energy-efficient air-to-air heat exchanger. 

3. The middle path

Some data centers use gas-fired on-site energy centers rather than diesel generators to provide back-up power. Some use biogas facilities to power CHP generators. Another simple method that some centers use is to put servers into low power standby mode when they’re not in use. In standby mode, efficient servers use a fraction of the electricity as standard servers. Although these methods may not reduce carbon emissions completely, it’s at least a start. Or as some analysts call it, the middle path to energy efficiency.

Data centers need to work hand in hand with national grids towards efficiency. Business decisions need to be taken after studying environmental and social impact. In other words, it’s time to come clean!

At Hardy Racks, we understand the importance of energy-efficient technologies. Hardy Racks offers solutions for power and cooling efficiency analysis as well as energy usage and efficiency assessment. Get in touch with us today for an energy-smart data center.

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