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Big Energy Saving Week: Smart changes for your data centre

Image: Adobe Stock / Connect world

Vincent de Rul, director of Energy Solutions at EDF Energy highlights the importance of understanding the energy use in your data centre and outlines some of the key ways you can make the most of it.

For data centre managers, keeping the servers on and available 24/7 is a key priority. Maintaining a constant supply of energy in the current climate of rising energy costs and increasing scarcity of resources can be a major challenge for data centres in particular.

This is why campaigns like Big Energy Saving Week, the national campaign that starts this week to raise awareness of energy consumption, are a helpful reminder of the pressures business leaders and energy managers also face.

Data centre managers understand the strategic importance of energy, and its correct management and optimisation.

The ever-increasing demand for data has inevitably created increasing demand for energy; in fact, energy costs can make up as much as 70 to 80 percent of operational expenses. Energy management, finding new ways to mitigate costs, is therefore a strategic issue as well as operational.

Effective change all starts with an understanding of specific energy usage; the more specific the insight, the better ability data managers have to identify opportunities for change.

With a remote energy monitoring solution, managers can better identify their most energy intensive operations and assets and start their efficiency journey by prioritising the changes which will have the highest immediate impact.

Live energy monitoring tools, such as our PowerNow tool, provide an additional advantage by monitoring consumption at an asset level, on a minute-by-minute basis.

For example, managers can view in real-time the energy usage of one server compared to another, or the difference in energy usage when air conditioning systems are set a couple of degrees warmer.

Providing a deeper understanding of live energy use helps to uncover more opportunities to drive further savings.

Behavioural changes such as ensuring lights aren’t left on when the centre isn’t manned are important, but only go so far. Many of our customers have benefited from automating efficiency measures like daylight and occupancy sensors, which switch off lighting when it is not needed.

Heat containment systems have also proven popular among our data centre clients, helping to minimise the amount of air-conditioning required to cool down hot spots.

Data centre managers can take their strategic use of energy further still through renewable sources and Demand Side Response (DSR) measures.

The principle here is that energy flexibility can be managed and optimised to create extra revenue, decrease a company’s carbon footprint and improve resilience, which is crucial in an industry where a power outage of a few minutes can result in fines of more than a million pounds.

Many data centres are already set up to start earning extra revenue by selling energy back to the grid. The back-up generators that many data centre managers install to prevent outages provide a source of energy that can be sold to support the grid when it is experiencing high demand.

Other ways to earn revenue include actions such as capturing the thermal inertia from servers, deeming the energy consumption from air conditioning systems or charging batteries overnight when energy costs are lower.

Data centres that are well placed for wind and solar energy – big, flat roofs often present a great opportunity to generate solar power – can also create revenue by selling energy back to the grid during peak demand. With the help of a flexibility optimisation platform like our PowerShift solution, businesses can control, trade and optimise their flexibility capabilities all in one place.

As the demands on data centres continues to rise, so too will the need to implement effective efficiency measures; use this year’s Big Energy Saving Week to reassess your data centre’s energy consumption and put in place new strategies and systems to improve your efficiency.

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