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Can a data centre achieve Net Zero?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By OnSite Energy Projects

Achieving net zero is a challenge for any business but data centres are amongst the most power hungry users. Globally data centres consume >3% of total power generation (that’s 140% of the entire UK power generation). So can data centres ever attain net zero?

Some data centres simply buy “green tariffs” which in my view is a cheat, and it won’t be acceptable in the long run.  It also misses the real opportunity of embracing the move towards net zero, which is  to reduce operating costs and be green at local level. Achieving net zero lies in a combination of energy efficiency and local zero carbon generation.

Data centres are often measured by their PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) which is Total Facility Power consumption divided by IT Equipment Power.  Typically PUE is in the range 1.5-2.0  depending on location.  The traditional approach in building a data centre is to size the power supply and cooling to the maximum compute capacity, with redundancy.  In practice this means a lot of equipment on standby or in reserve just in case.

We typically see several energy savings options in data centres.  For instance, alternative cooling technologies can be used which save significant energy (up to 90% of cooling load), and are also cheaper than traditional cooling and more scalable to deploy as IT power grows.  Resulting PUE can fall below 1.1.

Reducing consumption also narrows the gap that zero carbon onsite generation then needs to address.  The main factors in specifying generation solutions are usually available space on site, scale of generation needed and access to nearby low carbon or renewable generation.

The benefits such an approach brings are (1) cheaper operating costs;  (2) reduced CO2 emissions; (3) long-term cheaper power than grid, and (4) enhanced resilience. These are all key factors in attracting and retaining tenants.   Adoption of the alternative cooling technologies can even enable more dense rack compute power, so enabling more use of space, higher rents and higher occupancy.

The technology may not be there today to go fully net zero, but I am convinced its coming.  Adopting a strategy towards net zero will be vital for attracting and retaining customers.

Onsite Energy Projects enables the achievement of net zero via our innovative data-led approach and zero capex solution. For more details please contact us at info@on-site.energy or on 0161 444 9989.

http://on-site.energy

GUEST BLOG: How Data Centers are Pioneering Green Technology

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By Lex Coors, Interxion

When you think of March, you might think of St. Patrick’s Day. And what color immediately comes to mind? Green.

But today, the color green has taken on a brand new significance as the symbol of the booming green energy movement. That has become a vital component of Europe’s economy—including the nation where St. Patrick’s Day originated.

Demonstrating green practices can be a notable business differentiator for service providers looking to sell services to the European market.

Europeans care strongly about sustainability: slightly more than eight in ten E.U. citizens felt that environmental impact was an important element when deciding which products to buy.

One example of this practice is Taxi Stockholm – which has an initiative to be completely free by 2025, an initiative that extends to their data center and IT service provider Devinix as well.

So, for U.S. companies that are trying to take advantage of the European market, colocating in data centers committed to both using green technology and innovating new efficiency measures is a way to distinguish themselves from their competitors. 

At Interxion, energy efficiency is a company-wide policy, with energy-saving measures built right into its datacenters. For more than 20 years Interxion has pioneered energy-saving designs and harnessed everything from arctic winds to underground aquifers to the Baltic Sea to reduce its energy use and thus reduce its carbon footprint. 

For data center providers, much of the daily operations involve ensuring the equipment is kept cool to ensure customers’ mission critical applications are kept running 24/7/365. Interxion is innovating and implementing advanced energy-efficient cooling technologies: for example, free-cooling reduces the use of electricity, which is still predominantly produced from conventional fuels. These energy efficiency measures are examples of Interxion making a positive environmental contribution for its industry and its customers.

In addition to energy efficiency, Interxion pioneered the use of 100% sustainable energy sources, including water, solar, and wind to power its data centers across Europe. And between 2017 and 2019, Interxion chose to redeem all of its data centers’ electricity usage in the form of renewable energy produced in Europe, either via supplier’s green tariffs or Guarantees of Origin. 

Interxion has played a critical role in the sustainability efforts of its host cities. A notable example is Stockholm: in the 1970s, Stockholm took energy efficiency to a new level by building infrastructure that reused excess heat to warm households in the city. Interxion is a key partner in this groundbreaking initiative: together with Stockholm Exergi, Interxion is transferring the excess heat energy into residential heating. In 2018, Germany’s two biggest TV networks traveled to Interxion’s Stockholm facility to film documentaries about the city’s power-saving technology with hopes that other countries or cities will soon adopt similar practices.

In Denmark, Interxion has developed groundwater cooling as an energy-saving measure. Previously, cooling in the summer months had been based on traditional refrigeration machines that used a lot of power. But Interxion worked with the city of Ballerup to develop a groundwater-based cooling system that can replace the traditional refrigerants with geo-energy. The result is a system that, summer and winter, can always provide sufficient cooling while significantly reducing energy consumption.

Denmark and the whole Nordic region have evolved into Europe’s leaders in energy efficiency. Not only are Interxion’s Nordic facilities designed specifically with byproducts like excess heat in mind, they are among the only data center providers covering the whole of Europe with 100% sustainable energy. Hyperscalers like Apple and Google have applauded the Nordics for their energy efficient data centers.

The great supply of power from sustainable sources like hydro- and wind power combined with the cold climate makes the Nordics an ideal place for building sustainable data centers. Due to this and a fast-growing market in Northern Europe, Interxion is seeing an increased number of hyperscale data center projects emerging in both Denmark and Sweden.

Green-laden Ireland is another region in Europe where energy efficiency is thriving. The Emerald Isle’s temperate climate makes it perfectly suited for free-air cooling, which uses approximately 40% less electricity than typical cooling methods. In addition to energy efficiency, Ireland is a leader in sustainable energy: 26% of the energy that Ireland produced in 2016 came from sustainable sources. It also possesses the third-highest wind penetration in the world. In fact, Ireland has set a target of having 40% of all its energy generated from renewable sources by 2020. It’s quite ambitious, but completely reachable.

In addition to sustainable energy, Interxion’s Ireland data centers are making major contributions in energy efficiency. Interxion has pioneered new approaches to data center design and management, including improvements around power usage effectiveness and the industry’s first-ever modular approach to data center design. Interxion even designed its newest Ireland data center DUB3 with a specific focus on energy-saving modular architecture, incorporating cooling and maximum efficiency components. 

Interxion’s efficient and sustainable facilities have changed the conversation around data centers. Once feared as a source of pollution, data centers are now embraced for their energy contributions to surrounding communities. Enterprises that wish to boost their business in energy-conscious Europe have also embraced data centers equipped with green technology.

With such enormous benefits to the data center industry, environment, and local communities, it is easy to imagine Interxion’s green energy initiative is a win for all.