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Working towards the green data centre

Bonnie Gardiner | May 5, 2015
The standard data centre will one day run on renewable energy and green technologies. But how far do we have to go before this is a reality?

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With the amount of energy now required to power the world's data centres, the consumption policies and strategies surrounding them are becoming rather critical to organisations hoping to achieve sustainability and remain competitive.

A report released last week by 451 Research reveals how the renewable-powered data centre is becoming more commonplace, demonstrating major strides towards the use of green data centres and the challenges still to overcome.

The report, Energizing renewable-powered datacenters, notes that global power demand for data centres grew to an estimated 40 gigawatts in 2013, an increase of seven per cent over 2012. This figure is expected to rise year-on-year, along with greenhouse gas emissions from data centres.

The Smarter 2020 report puts IT-related carbon emissions at about two per cent of total global emissions, and data centres will be the fastest-growing part of the global IT sector energy footprint, with demands increasing 81 per cent by 2020.

Rodney Gedda, analyst with Telsyte, tells CIO that data centres, like cars, probably can never be 100 per cent 'green', but we can certainly reduce their environmental impact dramatically.

"That translates through to everything from the construction and design of the data centre to the environmental management needs inside a data centre," Gedda says.

Leading the way
The average data centre is only expected to derive a small percentage of its required energy from renewable sources. Yet, today we see a handful of large players finally starting to skew that trend, with the likes of Apple and Google seeing financial, sustainability and availability benefits from increasing the proportion of energy they use from renewables.

The 451 Research report shows a number of operators have adopted data centre designs that rely on, and even make a virtue of, on-site renewable or low-carbon generation.

In the first quarter of this year, Apple claimed it was investing $US1.9 billion in two new European data centres that will be 100 per cent powered by renewables (grid and on-site).

In the same period, Apple also announced an $US848m solar investment in California, while Google announced a significant wind turbine project in the same state. These actions, along with many others, could be the start of green data centres becoming the standard, rather than the exception.

Colocation provider Equinix has also deployed green technologies in its data centres, including adaptive control systems, cold/hot aisle containment, energy efficient lighting systems and variable frequency drives, with the aim of achieving 100 per cent green and renewable energy-powered, worldwide.

The company's operational practices have resulted in reducing energy usage by 13,500 kilowatts annually - enough to power more than 11,000 US homes for a year.

 

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