The Data Center Gets Greener

Eco-friendly initiatives have been a key driver of activity in the data center real estate market. New tenants look to facilities with top PUEs and energy efficiency through reliable alternative energy sources, while data center owners and operators improve their environmental footprint in anticipation of aggressive market competition and looming government regulations. A new report by MarketsandMarkets projected that the colocation market will be worth $43.34 billion by 2018, driven in a large part by organizations’ efforts to “greenify” through outsourcing their data center and IT services needs to state-of-the-art facilities.

As data centers rise in import to the operations of even the average enterprise, power usage overall and per cabinet is rising due to more powerful servers and density via virtualization. There are many exciting data center design initiatives happening around the world that utilize alternative sources of energy in highly available data center environments and operators will continue to choose facility locations based on eco-friendly opportunities.

The Big Green Three
Many of the most dynamic design initiatives have been first utilized in the data centers of three tech industry titans – Facebook, Google and Apple. In June, Facebook opened its LuleÃ¥, Sweden data center, located at the rim of the Arctic Circle. The facility’s location offers a variety of environmentally sustainable features, including 100 percent renewable hydroelectric energy. The energy source is also highly reliable, Facebook stated, easing doubts about the ability of an alternative power supply to maintain availability. Facebook even said that they were able to scale back the number of backup generators at the facility by more than 70 percent. Additionally, the frigid Nordic air, which offers temperatures well below zero degrees Celsius much of the year, provides a substantial amount of the facility’s cooling naturally. The data center features a PUE of 1.07.

Apple has long been at the forefront of environmentally sustainable data center design, an attitude displayed in the company’s North Carolina data center in Maiden. The solar photovoltaic panels at the facility provides 42 million kilowatt-hours of low carbon, renewable energy. The 500,000-square-foot facility also draws energy from an onsite fuel cell installation that provides directed biogas, as well as a waterside economizer operation that maximizes the use of outside air to power the chilling system. The facility is LEED Platinum certified, and the company recently earned an EPA award for its role in leading a clean energy revolution in North Carolina, Greenpeace reported.

Data center power alternatives have also played a huge role in Google’s data center design and development. The company has been an industry leader in the effort to reduce data center carbon footprints. Recently, the company nearly doubled its wind energy portfolio, adding 240 megawatts of wind energy outside of Amarillo, Tex., the Energy Collective reported. The wind energy will be utilized in the local area grid, which contributes power to Google’s Oklahoma data center. The tech giant now possesses enough wind energy to power 170,000 households.

Other Green Initiatives Around the U.S.
While these multi-industry tech leaders certainly have more capital to work with and can afford to take more risks with their data center sustainability initiatives, an array of other operators are implementing innovative eco-friendly solutions into their data center design.

For example, a regional data center firm recently announced that they will install 4 megawatts of solar power at their mall-based Indianapolis data center campus. The panels are due to be fully operational by April 2014.

EBay’s new Utah data center, in Salt Lake City, will be powered by 30 fuel cells, Energy Manager Today reported. Fuel cells are hydrogen-based and the system can provide up to 99.9999 percent reliability.

General Motors will cut energy consumption by 70 percent in its Warren, Michigan data center, according to Ars Technica. The facility uses 15,000 pound flywheels, which spin at 3,300 revolutions per minute, to generate uninterruptible power. It also offers some state-of-the-art cooling methods, including three “waterfall” evaporation chillers that make temperature maintenance more efficient, as well as thermal storage tanks which provide 30 minutes of cooling if the system ever loses power, significantly mitigating the risk of downtime-related energy bills.

1 thought on “The Data Center Gets Greener”

Leave a Comment