3 Ways Data Centres Are Going Green

Written by Anthony Carter, Managing Director, Connotations (Carman Online Publishing Ltd.) Published 2018-05-31 09:16:28

The world's data centres and colocation providers are using a greater share of the world's energy resources every year, suggesting that they’re contributing to larger levels of greenhouse gases as well.

Here’s the issue - we can’t live without fewer data centres if we want our connected world to stay connected, so what do we do? Well, data centres have to be made more green. And that's exactly what is being done.

Over the last decade, we've seen a visible increase in the number of green initiatives being pursued by some the largest tech companies in the world. Take Google, for example. They’re on a quest to eventually ensure that all their worldwide data centres run on 100% renewable energy. They’re already more than half-way there, by the way.

As good as that sounds, renewable energy is just one part of the equation. There are lots of ways data centres can go green, and they are doing so with greater frequency. That is a good thing, no matter where you stand on the climate change issue. It’s worth nothing that depending on where the facility is physically located in the world makes a significant difference as to how much in and in what way ‘going green’ can be implemented, and depending on what applications you plan to run, the ‘greenest’ choice in an obscure location may not be your best option.

1. Renewable Energy Projects

We start with renewable energy projects because that's where going green is most visible. Companies adopting renewable energy strategies are finding new and innovative ways to meet their power needs. Here are just a few examples:

  • Iceland – A campus in Iceland runs almost entirely on geothermal and hydroelectric power. The two partners claim to have built the world's first carbon-neutral data centre to which BMW has already moved a large portion of its German clusters.
  • Australia – A data centre in Port Melbourne now includes one of Australia's biggest solar arrays for generating its own power. Customers have an opportunity to choose 100% renewable power for their IT infrastructure.
  • VIRTUS (United Kingdom) – VIRTUS’ LONDON2 facility in Hayes already had its green roots, firstly being run on 100% renewable energy and also incorporating a borehole dug at the inception of the site, to maximise Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE). Now the provider has its sights set on making the facility as close to carbon-neutral as possible.

Other renewable energy projects are looking at hydro power generated from sea waves, fuel cell technology, and even biogas and composting.

2. Innovating Cooling Solutions

A major component of data centre power usage goes into cooling.

Servers can't be allowed to overheat, or you risk data loss and shortened server life. But there are ways to cool without using a load of grid-based energy. For example, a Frankfurt data centre has reduced its energy usage by covering the exterior walls and roof with plants. This keeps the internal temperature consistent throughout the year. Outside air is used for cooling more than 60% of the time.

Google's Hamina, Finland data centre makes use of seawater for cooling purposes. Come to think of it, the Hamina site was the first to tap seawater cooling, making it a true pioneer facility. Not to be outdone, Facebook adopted a cooling system at its Lulea, Sweden data centre that utilises both chilly outside air and water-cooling techniques.

3. Data Centre Recycling

Finally, the greenest of green data centres are engaging in a variety of recycling strategies that make them even more environmentally friendly. The previously mentioned Google data centre in Finland recycles 100% of the electronics they replace. The Citi data centre in Germany utilises a reverse osmosis strategy to treat and recycle about 13 million gallons of water every year.

Throughout Europe, there are a growing number of data centres that are capturing the heat their facilities produce and selling it to cities for municipal heat and hot water. They are recycling energy that would otherwise escape into the air untapped.

It’s a fact that we rely on data centres and colocation providers to maintain our technology-driven world. Without them, we would surely be lost. From financial transactions to government operations, the list is endless - we’re now so dependent on our data centres that we have no choice but to continue building them. The goal now is to build them as green as possible.

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