Sustainability is a latent challenge for the world and especially for data centers considering the high energy consumption that this sector requires and the expected increase due to the growing demand for its services as well as the entry of new projects with higher densities of energy consumption per unit or rack.
Concern regarding the impact of the carbon footprint from major players in technology such as Meta, Microsoft or Google Cloud has led them to adopt practices and sign environmental agreements where they commit to monitor their emissions as well as those of their suppliers even from the design and construction phase.
According to the survey conducted by 451 Research Group in 2020 to more than 800 data center service providers worldwide, 57% of respondents think that efficiency and sustainability will be of great importance for the competitive differentiation of their organizations in the next three years; while the previous record gave accounts of a much lower percentage, only 26%.
When Andreas Manz says: limiting the sustainable concern to the issues of Data Centers, he refers to the research carried out by him, in 2015, on the 'Global use of electricity from communication technology, trends until 2030', where he estimates that in these times "data centers use approximately 200 TWh of electricity per year, which represents about 1% of global electricity demand", but in eight years the figure will grow dramatically (up to eight times).
This growth perspective comes at a time when the facts show that the impacts of climate change are a reality, such as those that happened in 2022 where record temperatures, floods, droughts, and changes in climate never seen before were recorded. Due to this, agendas focused on this aspect are developed, such as the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27); which took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
In time, the effects of the climate crisis will be more noticeable, and we must be prepared. In other words, the infrastructure projected today must consider and comply with technical and technological specifications aimed at measuring and optimizing energy consumption and its carbon footprint.
This operational design must be thought of in two ways: eco-efficiency and eco-effectiveness. Energy saving is always the priority, so when choosing or hiring a data center, the dynamics of interconnectivity must be considered. These must have the capacity to expand while remaining attentive to the limits and energy regulations of each country. This means that more innovative solutions must be adopted, such as reusing the heat generated by technological equipment, monitoring the emission of refrigerant gases and improving energy management.
Some examples of Energy Efficiency and Sustainability in Data Centers
The world is seeing transformative actions aimed at making data centers innovative and more environmentally friendly spaces, such as Facebook and the expansion of its data storage center in Arizona (United States), which has an area of 2.3 million square meters, but will use 60% less water than a traditional center.
In Dublin, another company plans to build an underground piping system to move heat waste from its facility to a hospital and university.
This year, Microsoft announced advances in the use of hydrogen cells to generate backup power for its data centers, this is in line with its commitment to eliminate diesel fuel and be carbon negative by 2030.
In Colombia, Data Center Zetta DC, in the Free Trade Zone of Bogotá, decided on cooling using Free Cooling technology that takes advantage of the cool temperature of Bogotá for most of the day (14 degrees Celsius) to cool the water in a closed cooling circuit, reducing the use of the cooling equipment to a few hours.
All these considerations must be considered to advance at the expected and projected speed in terms of interconnection but generating less and less impact on Earth.