Towards a Sustainable Data Center

The fight against climate change and the search for a sustainable society and economy includes the improvement of systems and equipment of the production chain. The DPC do not scape this reality and the efforts to achieve facilities that are not only more efficient but also compatible with a sustainable production model are stronger each day.

The main struggle is to reduce carbon emissions. A solid methodology that allows us to assess a product or system’s effects on the environment is the LCA or Life Cycle Analysis. Through this assessment, we measure the impact from the extraction of the raw materials to the production, making, manufacturing and the end product. In addition, we consider different protection areas such as the ecosystem quality, resource decrease or people’s health, among others.

How is the DPC’s environmental performance presently measured? Currently, the policies in place only consider the equipment’s energy efficiency and electricity consumption during operations. The complexity of Data Centers and, often, the lack of data, make it difficult to carry out this type of assessment.

The problem lies precisely in that assessment. Currently, the environmental activity of the DPC is only measured taking into consideration energy efficiency (PUE) and the electricity consumption derived from its operation, relating these parameters to carbon emissions. However, the PUE only indicates energy efficiency regarding energy and electricity consumption, but, what about IT energy efficiency? The study by Whitehead and Shah of 2015 concluded that energy consumption, electricity generation and IT systems are the main factors of the Data Centers that generate the highest impact on the environment.

As of today, there are various rules and regulations that can guide Data Center professionals towards a more sustainable model, such as the maturity model of Green Grid, which establishes that in order to achieve the highest level it is necessary to learn to control CO2 emissions within the regenerative cycle of the mechanical and electrical installations. The ISO/14001 standard includes recycling electronic residues. Alternatively, the European Code of Conduct for DPC Energy Efficiency (We are interested in citing EA0044 or CEEDA and additionally evaluating if ISO500001 or LEED or BREAM are interesting).

The DPC’s air conditioning system is one of most energy consuming parts of the equipment, achieving that said system be efficient would be an option with very positive results. Solutions, for example, as hallway enclosing, improve air management, avoid hot spots and, therefore, increase equipment reliability. GESAB has developed its own cold hallway enclosing system, the CCNOC, which improves PUE levels and delivers energy savings of up to 30%. The freecooling system is an air conditioning system that uses exterior air to cool down equipment. The ecooling solution, developed by GESAB, which can provide energy savings of up to 80% and a reduction of CO2. of up to 54%.

And, finally, another viable solution for the use of renewable energy sources to feed the equipment. Let us remember that the European Union regulation proposes achieve a 15% of renewable energy supply by 2020.

Strategies to diminishing the flow of pollutant emissions from these pieces of equipment will continue to be developed to, as a plus, improve efficiency. Companies that have already started implementing measures to decrease the environmental impact of their facilities have achieved some benefits:

  • Brand value increase as an environmentally responsible company.
  • Total cost reduction of the property.
  • Innovation profitability increase.

Data Center professionals work day after day so that the industry and the equipment advance towards a future increasingly more sustainable and environmentally friendly, something that also has positive effects on society and economy.