A sustainable future for data centres
In 2020 electricity consumption by global data centres was 200–250 TWh according to the International Energy Agency. That’s around 1% of global electricity consumption, which is roughly the same amount of electricity used by the whole of Spain that same year. Consider this in light of the climate change crisis and the cost of energy crisis and it’s no wonder that data centre operators are looking to create more sustainable data centres. But how? Here are 5 approaches currently being trialled or tested.
As creators and suppliers of cold aisle and hot aisle containment solutions, we see every day the positive impact that optimising airflow in data centres can have on energy consumption. By keeping cold air in supply aisles, hot air in exhaust aisles and minimising mixing, the power needed for data centre cooling can be significantly reduced.
Cooling the first data centres was a much easier task than it is today. Why? Because advances in technology have seen the creation of powerful technology, such as artificial intelligence, that unfortunately is also power-hungry. Air cooling may not always be enough to keep data centres of the future cool.
That is why liquid cooling systems are now being tested. However, the challenge is not as straightforward as just developing a cost-effective liquid cooling system for data centres. It also requires server manufacturers to make liquid-capable servers and colocation providers to build the required cooling systems and provide trained maintenance crews.
Goodbye diesel generators
Looking for a cleaner, more efficient energy supplies, testing is underway to replace diesel generators and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units with solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC).
Leading manufacturer of SOFCs, Bloom Energy, states that their SOFCs “convert fuel into electricity at one of the highest efficiencies of any power solution today”. Plus, SOFCs don’t require any water for cooling under normal circumstances. This is a significant benefit given the volume of water used to cool power plants — the number one use of water in the USA is currently power plant cooling.
What’s more, SOFCs have been designed to use natural gas, green hydrogen or liquified petroleum gas, which makes them easy to integrate into whatever the predominant local fuel system is.
Facebook, Microsoft and Google have all agreed to become 100% renewable as demonstrated by becoming members of the global corporate renewable energy initiative RE100. By switching to green energy suppliers, data centres are leveraging wind, solar and hydroelectric power to reduce their carbon footprints.
Smart power management
To make the most of any energy source used to power data centres, that energy needs to be managed efficiently. This requires more than manual power monitoring. It requires smart power management, that is, sensors and software management platforms. The result? The right amount of energy is delivered to the right place at the right time, always.
The hope is that by leveraging some or all of the above approaches, data centres of the future will be sustainable and carbon neutral. Given the rise in global data production, this isn’t just good for business and the environment, it’s essential.
- Cold Aisle Containment
- Solargenic Hot Aisle Containment
- Secure Cages & Enclosures
- Ventilated Server Safe
- Bespoke Security Solutions
- Security Grilles & Bars