Dec 17, 2020

How a power-hungry industry is achieving its green ambitions

Data Centres
David Watkins
4 min
David Watkins, solutions director for VIRTUS Data Centres, discusses how the industry can reconcile energy consumption with its sustainability goals
David Watkins, solutions director for VIRTUS Data Centres, discusses how the industry can reconcile energy consumption with its sustainability goals...

The data centre has become one of the most crucial pieces of business infrastructure - everything with the word smart in front of it, has a data centre behind it. Data centres are responsible for storing and processing the vast amounts of information needed to run the digital economy and if they don’t work, businesses won’t be able to operate.

It sounds big, but in truth, data centres run the world. However, the data centre industry is a contributor to emissions and therefore climate change, and the pressure to reduce data centres’ environmental impact is high on the priority list of governments all over the world. Today, data centres generate 2% of the world’s 50bn metric tonnes of greenhouse gasses every year, so to reduce their impact, the EU Commission recently set a “green deadline”, noting that the industry "should become climate neutral by 2030.” 

This article will look at how the data centre industry can meet its environmental targets while maintaining service and delivering on increasing customer demands.

Harnessing sustainable energy sources

Thankfully, renewable energy is on the rise, and it’s now more affordable than ever to harness power supplies from sources such as wind, solar and hydro. Indeed, renewable energy projects are an area of continued success for the industry.

A good example of this at work is a campus in the southwestern tip of Iceland, which runs almost entirely on geothermal and hydroelectric power. The Icelandic data centre owners claim theirs to be the world's first carbon-neutral data centre, and the industry is suitably impressed. BMW has already moved a large portion of its German clusters to the campus, and more companies look set to follow.

Some data centres have taken great strides on the sustainability agenda, showing clear signs of green roots. They have chosen energy suppliers that use 100% renewable sources harnessing power from wind, solar and tidal sources. 

A focus on cooling

As data centres focus on building a greener future, improving the energy efficiency of cooling operations will be critical. On average, as much as 40% of a data centre’s power consumption goes toward cooling the servers. Fortunately, the expertise to make these cooling systems more energy efficient and reliable already exists. For example, a Frankfurt data centre has reduced its water consumption through an on-site reverse osmosis water treatment plant, and harvested rainwater to feed the plants that cover the exterior walls and roof. Outside air is used for cooling more than 60% of the time in this innovative design.

Google's Hamina, Finland data centre makes use of seawater for cooling purposes. And, not to be outdone, Facebook adopted a cooling system at its Lulea, Sweden data centre that uses both chilly outside air and water-cooling techniques to ensure its equipment is kept at the optimum temperature. 

The UK is no different and some providers investigate what cooling technology to use very closely. One of the most effective methods is to use banks of chillers that are connected with two pipes - a flow and a return – which send cold water around the building, and pumps the warmer water out. An example of another innovative method in use incorporates a borehole that was dug at the inception of the site, to maximise Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE).

A holistic approach

It simply isn’t good enough to just concentrate on one area like power or cooling, or developing a sustainable supply chain which favours suppliers with green credentials. Environmental ambitions must be built into every step of data centre construction and maintenance. When it comes to the first steep - construction - BREEAM standards look at the green credentials of commercial buildings, verifying their performance against sustainability benchmarks. Once a building is up and running, there are plenty of every day concerns to address too. For example, highly efficient UPS (uninterruptible power supply) systems have the ability to close down parts of the system when they’re not being used - saving on unnecessary power use and reducing costs. Recycling of waste is crucial too, last year we recycled 94% of waste across our business, again reducing the environmental impact.

The data centre industry should strive to innovate and focus on the lifecycle of the resources and materials they use rather than just the capital cost. It we do this, from design, through to sourcing of energy, raw materials and other inputs, to final products until the end-of life stage, the industry’s future looks set to be a greener one. If the industry partners with organisations and customers that want to develop sustainable solutions, collectively it will help with the goal of building a “climate neutral” industry. 

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Jun 15, 2021

Sustainability and PUE reduction in data centres

2 min
As green data centre design becomes mission critical, rigid evaporative media can be the key to reducing your PUE and increasing your sustainability. 

The data centre industry is at a crossroads. As demand for colocation, hyperscale cloud, and edge solutions continues to rise, operators and enterprises are also facing up to the reality that sustainable design and operating practice are a mission critical component of the modern data centre. Going green is no longer an optional extra.

Data centres are becoming an increasingly critical foundation that underpins the modern world, and the demand for them continues to grow exponentially each year. Data centres must remain in constant operation in order to provide the services for which customers depend on them. 

This mission critical need, combined with the sector-wide push towards reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint throughout the industry, is making the search for innovative evaporative media solutions that keep systems running at peak efficiency an equally mission critical priority.

The two main sources of energy consumption in a modern data centre are its IT equipment and the cooling infrastructure used to keep that equipment cool. A 2017 study found that energy consumption as the direct result of cooling data centre IT equipment can amount to over 40% of the total energy consumption in a facility. From air cooling to liquid and evaporative chillers, data centre operators, finding the right cooling solution for your facility is a top-of-mind goal for any data centre operator. 

Courtesy of Portacool
Courtesy of Portacool

Portacool: keeping it Kuul 

Based in Center, Texas, Portacool is a portable evaporative cooling solutions firm that has been pushing the boundaries of mission critical infrastructure cooling technology since it entered the market in 1990. 

Through constant embodiment of its five brand pillars - Safety & Liability, Total Cost of Ownership, Productivity & Performance, Sustainability & Social Responsibility, and Life & Comfort Enhancing Solutions - Portacool has grown steadily over the past 30 years, continually reinforcing its reputation for industry-leading cooling solutions. 

Portacool’s solutions have been successfully applied throughout the agricultural and horticultural, manufacturing, industrial, business, entertainment, sports, home, and hobby industries - “anywhere cooling is needed and traditional air conditioning is impractical or cost prohibitive.” 

The company’s sub-brand, Kuul, is Portacool’s answer to the growing need for reliable, sustainable cooling solutions in the data centre sector. Portacool manufactures three series of evaporative media – Kuul Control, Kuul Vitality and Kuul Comfort. Kuul Control is used in data centres, power generation and HVAC systems. Kuul Vitality is utilised primarily in the horticulture, poultry and swine industries. Kuul Comfort is exclusively made for usage in Portacool-branded portable evaporative coolers.

Kuul can help data centre operators lower their PUE dramatically, increasing the environmental sustainability of their facilities significantly as a result of its rigid evaporative media solutions. 

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