Given the current state of the world’s energy supply, now might be a good time to talk about the true energy costs of data centers, why this sector is one of the fastest growing in the world, and how one could make the case that they are actually a key driver of the switch to renewable energy sources. Think about their development first. Internet traffic has surged by 440% between 2015 and 2021, while internet user growth has increased by 60% during the same period. Nonetheless, despite a 260% increase in workload for data centers over that time, the energy use associated with data centers worldwide has remained largely stable, increasing by about 10%.
This energy consumption-service demand decoupling is quite important. The industry is being propelled by the quick development of digital technology in data centers, which enables the sector to counteract sharp increases in demand with more effective infrastructure. Shortly said, we are expanding our digital capabilities, updating aging infrastructure, and accommodating growth, but in actuality, we are not consuming significantly more energy than we were five years ago.
The fundamental issue at hand is how to minimize the environmental impact of internet use worldwide. Since there is an impact and there always will be, we must continue to employ technology and business innovation to lessen it. More than 85% of the carbon effect in today’s datacenters comes from operations, as seen by looking at the lifecycle of a datacenter. Net-zero construction won’t address the greater part of the challenge: the carbon impact of operating the facility for 20 years or more. There is undoubtedly an impact during development that is considerable and deserving of mitigation.
Introducing the idea of an energy blend. The energy mix in the area where a data center is operating has a significant impact on the carbon performance of that facility. There are a few exceptions where the operators assume the duty of onsite gas or renewable energy power generation, but for the most part, local grids supply electricity to data centers.
The energy mix is significantly impacted by the fact that the data center sector is a key purchaser of PPAs for renewable energy. The two biggest corporations purchasing renewable energy through PPA in 2021 were Amazon and Microsoft. In a way, the data center sector is promoting decarbonization by financing a sizeable amount of grid-scale, carbon-free electricity for industry. This shows the larger industrial base that essential loads can reliably switch to renewables and has the potential to spark an entire ecosystem at the national level.
New architectural best practices for data centers are also being influenced by rising levels of infrastructure redundancy at the IT level and growing renewable energy use. As a short-term backup power supply, battery energy storage systems (BESS) are taking the place of diesel gensets, for instance. As energy markets become more interconnected, data centers that use BESS can produce previously unheard-of profits by operating in island mode during outages (without using diesel generators to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) or regulating the frequency of the grid.
The pursuit of efficiency is as crucial as ever, and energy management practices have a significant impact on how a data center operates. Energy use is significantly being impacted by technological advancements in data center environmental management. We are aware that cooling and ventilation can account for 20% to 40% of a data center’s energy consumption, making this mechanical load an ideal candidate for technological optimization.
A nice illustration is cooling in white spaces. Our technology, a white space cooling optimization solution, uses a sophisticated machine-learning algorithm to analyze the impact of cooling on particular regions of a data center, developing an influence map to keep energy use to a minimum. These kind of AI engines have the potential to significantly reduce a data center’s energy expenses; in fact, they are one of the factors that make the new Greenergy data center in Estonia the most energy-efficient in the Baltic region.
Another important aspect of lowering the energy use and costs in the sector is to incorporate flexibility into the design of data centers. Instead of operating circuits and networks nonstop with nothing to do, a data center may enable and disable capacity as needed using intelligent design, instrumentation, control, and automation. This is essential throughout the year when extra capacity is required to meet brief surges in demand, as well as to avoid the over-provision of infrastructure. With superior mechanical, electrical, and automation design, we can dynamically reduce or enhance data center infrastructure resources, allowing them to dependably run near to capacity for brief periods of time. Black Friday and the Christmas season are two prime examples.
Humanity has benefited greatly from digitalization and the increase in internet access, but we must be modest enough to recognize the sustainability impact. Now, it is our goal to continuously and progressively reduce that influence until it is nil. By voluntarily investing in decarbonization, the data center sector has set the bar high and shown how an ecosystem of technology businesses can collaborate to assess, manage, and fundamentally alter an industry’s attitude to energy through innovation. If we want to ensure that the environmental impact of our digital lives is as little as possible, we must maintain this pace of innovation and investment.