Why green data centres are central to addressing the global climate crisis

Why green data centres are central to addressing the global climate crisis

Gabriele Sposato, CMO at Aruba.it, explores the role the data centre industry plays in addressing climate change. 

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that climate change is currently an extremely hot topic. Thousands of people across the globe joined the Global Climate Change Strike in mid-September, sending a clear message to governments and large enterprises: it’s time to treat the climate crisis with the respect it deserves.

In a similar vein, the Guardian has made a point of changing its house style and vocabulary to reflect the severity of today’s climate issues. In place of global warming it now uses global heating, and instead of climate change it now refers to the climate crisis.

The climate conversation also extends to the data centre industry. As the economy becomes increasingly data-driven and the number of connected devices multiplies, the quantity of data produced is set to reach staggering levels. Data centres will be responsible for storing and managing the majority of this vast quantity of data and, for this reason, it’s expected that data centres could be responsible for 3.2% of global carbon emissions by 2025.

So, what role can green data centres play in mitigating the damage this data tsunami inflicts on the environment?

Harnessing renewable energy

As the momentum behind the climate change movement has continued to gather pace, using clean energy and becoming energy efficient have quickly become key trends in the data centre industry. Modern data centre providers need to proactively meet these challenges head-on to ensure a greener future, particularly with customers now paying more attention to their eco-friendly credentials.

This has driven the rise of green data centres that rely exclusively on renewable energy sources — such as solar, geothermal and wind — for their consumption, minimising the impact of data processing on the environment.

The key to cutting emissions produced by data centres is in harnessing this renewable energy and producing it on site to minimise transmission costs. For example, photovoltaic and hydroelectric technologies let data centre providers do exactly that. Photovoltaic panels installed on usable surfaces with exposure to the sun enable the collection of clean solar energy, while hydroelectric plants harness the power of flowing water – which remains nearly constant – to store energy.

Then there’s the cooling issue. According to a recent study, cooling is one of the most significant sources of energy usage, prompting many providers to look towards natural data centre cooling systems. For instance, geothermal air-conditioning systems make use of cold water found underground, ensuring the requisite temperature is met to keep servers cool while minimising energy consumption and removing any environmental impact.

By employing these latest energy-efficient technologies, data centre providers can decrease their power consumption and focus on saving energy, rather than wasting it.

Time to go green

In response to the demand for environmentally responsible policy, companies will increasingly look to green data centres to provide a more sustainable means of storing and processing their critical business data over the years to come.

The likes of geothermal air-conditioning, photovoltaic and hydroelectric technologies enable data centre providers to produce clean energy, make the most of eco-friendly resources and reduce their impact on the environment.

This will be especially important as global competition in the data centre industry stiffens. Cutting carbon footprints will become a necessity both for environmentally-motivated and budgetary reasons. On-site power generation can actually yield significant cost savings in the long run, as they improve the reliability of power supply and reduce the risk of downtime.

Ultimately, data centre providers have to prepare now to ensure that they have a positive impact on the global climate – despite the presence of rapidly increasing volumes of data that all has to be stored and managed.