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Technology the key to mitigating energy use by data centres

04/02/2020

In a recent Cushman & Wakefield report ranking data centre markets across the globe, a section was devoted to the subject of sustainability.

With climate change posing an existential threat to the planet, with increased temperatures and a corresponding increase in sea levels, the data centre industry has a peculiar responsibility to consider. Increasingly we rely on data centres for our daily information and workload, yet the largest data centres utilize more power each year than small cities. Sustainability has thus become a critical factor in data centre design and location.

Data without the damage

Pressure for sustainability not only comes from environmental groups and investors, but through the large cloud service providers and biggest data centre tenants. Google plans to have zero emissions by 2030, Amazon plans to be carbon-neutral by 2040, and many cities throughout the world are planning the same by 2050, particularly in Europe. These companies and local governments are exploring multiple options to achieve this goal, including solar power, hydroelectricity, wind energy, and the reuse of biomass to provide cleaner, renewable power.

From a data centre perspective, building new centres in markets with a commitment to sustainable power has another benefit covered elsewhere in this report: it can be cheaper from a user perspective. Montreal has led the way on this for some time, with local utility Hydro Quebec marketing the low-cost hydroelectric power as a reason for locating data centres in the province. Sydney has recently stepped up, with all power coming from renewable sources within the year.

As large corporations and local governments pursue their own sustainability goals, data centres will be required to follow suit to meet future regulatory concerns and obtain further business. Those facilities that maintain a low power usage effectiveness, use water sparingly and utilize renewable energy will benefit both in cost savings and partners.

Singapore’s power problem

Singapore is, literally, a power house when it comes to consumption of power per capita and the data centre sector is starting to take note of emissions and build more environmentally sustainable data centres.

The Singapore government has said that it will review the greenhouse emissions target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Aside from IT equipment which typically forms the largest energy use, 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the power is consumed by air conditioning systems for cooling purposes. Instead of installing cooling systems that use electricity and burn carbon, companies have explored alternative ways to reduce electricity consumption.

Studies have indicated that replacing old systems with new energy-efficient ones, turning off unused/dead servers and using power on-demand may bring down the power consumption significantly.

However, this may come about at a higher investment cost and operational risks at data centres. Data centre monitoring systems also play a major role in mitigating emissions. Receiving prompt notifications on anomalies through remote sensors that measure temperature, power, humidity, and physical security would help trigger a quick response to rectify issues in a timely manner, avoiding energy wastage. As smart energy technologies continue to be experimented and embraced by companies here, data centre operators will see the benefits of applying these systems to their facilities, mitigating the pressure on power.  

To find out how we’re helping data centre operators, businesses, and public sector organisations across Singapore manage their energy consumption, contact Thiru Panchaksharam.

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