It’s Time for the Data Center Industry to Be Much Greener

Aug 24, 2022 | Environment

When it comes to energy consumption, the data center industry burns more carbon than does the aviation industry. And greening data centers is not a passive activity but rather a collaborative effort involving designers, implementers, operators, owners, and even consumers.

As the data center industry evolves and digital storage requirements continue to grow exponentially, it’s going to be increasingly important for data centers to take a serious look at their energy consumption.

It’s no surprise that the data center industry is going green. But it is also true that the environment isn’t the only thing that benefits from technological advances.

This article will provide you with guidelines and tips on how to make your data center greener.

The data center industry is a major contributor to climate change

The data center industry accounts for more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent study by Cisco. Researchers found that the world’s data centers consume over 200 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is equivalent to the energy used by all the households in New York City.

In short, data centers are big power hogs — and they’re getting bigger every year.

To understand why this is happening, let’s look at what’s driving the demand for new data centers:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT)
  • The rise of cloud computing
  • Mobile apps
  • Post pandemic digital behavior (hybrid activities)

The data center industry is growing rapidly and in such a way that it is causing climate change problems. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true.

The sheer number of servers being used by the data center industry is the problem. That means more energy consumption, more CO2 emissions, and more negative impact on our environment.

Greenpeace estimates that if the cloud was a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter after China, the United States, India, and Russia.

Companies often locate data centers in areas with cheap electricity and no renewable energy requirements.  In a Greenpeace report, one-third of all data centers are located in regions where there is no local policy on renewable energy.

Data center operators can help reduce their carbon footprint by using renewable energy or power sources from clean coal plants. They can also reduce their energy use by implementing energy efficiency measures like better cooling systems, more efficient lighting, and more intelligent building management systems (BMS).

What can we do to green the data center industry?

The data center industry can be greener by simply knowing how much power they use and having a sense of how much power they could save.

Fortunately, there are steps that data center operators can take to become more environmentally friendly and responsible.

With a little extra awareness of the problem, as well as limited changes to their current practices, green data centers could become the norm in the industry.

But there’s still a long way to go before data centers become truly green. Here are five ways IT leaders can make their data centers more sustainable.

Build an eco-friendly data center from scratch

The problem isn’t just that servers are energy hogs, although they are. Data centers can’t be built fast enough to keep up with demand. That’s because they’re so complex and expensive to build that they require years of planning and construction before they’re ready to go online.

But what if there was a way to build the data center of the future from scratch? A place where you could pack thousands or even millions of servers together in an efficient, sustainable way?

That’s exactly what some companies are trying to do — and it could save operational costs without compromising performance or security.

A new data center can be built to operate at as much as 50 percent efficiency. In fact, the data center is one of the most efficient buildings in the world. It uses less than 1 percent of all the energy consumed by commercial buildings, and those numbers are expected to keep going down.

Today, however, many enterprises are moving toward virtualized environments where multiple servers share resources such as memory and storage space rather than having dedicated hardware for each application.

Virtualization also allows unused servers or hard drives to be powered down when not needed (known as “hot” spot consolidation), thereby eliminating waste.

The following are some ways to build an eco-friendly data center:

Using clean energy

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that the use of gas-fired power plants would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent by 2030 compared with an increase of 7 percent if coal were used instead.

The study also found that the use of gas-fired power plants would reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 71 percent and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 59 percent compared with an increase.

Gas-fired power plants are now the most cost-efficient technology for the production of electricity in many parts of Europe, and they have been used in Germany for many years.

Gas-fired power plants can reduce CO2 emissions by using increasingly efficient combined cycle technology, which combines gas turbines with steam turbines.

It requires careful planning and consideration in order to avoid negative effects on the environment and climate. These include fugitive methane emissions due to leaks during extraction or transport as well as emissions during combustion at the plant itself (e.g., NOx).

To mitigate these effects, it is important that operators follow best practice guidelines when using natural gas as fuel; this includes careful maintenance of pipelines and storage tanks, regular inspection and maintenance procedures, etc.

Reducing carbon footprint by increasing efficiency

While improving efficiency is essential, reducing carbon footprints requires more than just efficiency improvements. It also requires clean energy resources like gas, nuclear, and geothermal.

Data centers provider can reduce their carbon footprint by investing in energy-efficient appliances, building materials, and equipment at their facilities.

Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce the amount of energy your data center uses:

  1. Use LED lights that have a typical lifetime of 50,000 hours or more. This can cut power consumption by 10% – 20%.
  2. Use efficient air conditioners and heat pumps, which can reduce electricity use by up to 40%.
  3. Install a high-efficiency chiller system that uses water from your site’s cooling tower water supply. This will eliminate the need for additional water used for cooling purposes and reduce potential water loss due to evaporation.
  4. Use variable frequency drives (VFDs) on motors in fans, pumps, and chillers. They allow you to adjust the speed so that equipment operates at its most efficient level during periods of peak demand while operating at full capacity during off-peak periods. This can save up to 30% in energy costs over fixed speed equipment such as standard motors controlled by timers or on/off switches
  5. Improve server efficiency. One of the easiest ways to reduce power usage in your data center is by improving server efficiency. Upgrading to more efficient hardware can accomplish this, or making minor tweaks to current equipment can increase its efficiency level.

Use recycled materials

The average lifespan of servers in data centers, usually estimated to be around three years, could very well end up being one of the bigger obstacles in our move towards greener computing.

Until we have more efficient ways of prolonging server life, companies will find it difficult to expand their sustainable computing practices in this way.

The first step in making your data center more environmentally friendly is to use recycled materials. Recycling reduces waste and saves money on raw materials, so it’s a win-win situation.

For example, if you build with concrete blocks instead of new bricks, you can save money while reducing CO2 emissions from the production process. Electrical sockets, switches, and other hardware can also be made from recycled materials.

Many vendors use recycled materials in their data center products. This reduces waste and helps offset their carbon footprint.

A Key Takeaway

The global data center market is expected to reach $97 billion by 2022, CAGR 10% from 2017, according to a recent forecast by Technavio.

In addition to the growing demand for cloud computing and big data analytics, the increasing adoption of digital transformation programs also is driving the growth of this market.

The Green data center industry is becoming a big trend nowadays. The data center industry needs to take a proactive approach to become more green and sustainable. The green data center industry offers a lot of advantages.

The green data center is the future of data centers. It’s no longer enough to just build a new data center, we need to focus on efficiency, power use, and reducing carbon footprint.

Green data centers produce energy-saving outcomes through the use of sustainable resources and practices. This way, the data center industry would be cutting down on its carbon footprint.

It’s time for the data center industry to be much greener. And we’re going to help make it happen with tech that cleans up where most fail.

This is what we are going to change together. We want our technology to be green, smarte,  and faster, so we will design them with the environment in mind.

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