Data centres are a major source of energy consumption in the world of computing. As businesses look to strengthen their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) strategies, there has been a greater emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency in the data centre. Here’s a closer look into the current challenges of energy efficiency in data centres and possible solutions.
Data Centre Energy Sustainability: Current & Future Challenges
Running a data centre requires immense energy and water. While the hardware within the data centre does require considerable energy to operate, the main source of energy consumption comes from cooling them using air conditioning systems.
Currently, data centres are responsible for 3% of global electricity consumption, and this figure is projected to increase to 4% by 2030. Aside from electricity, some larger facilities can consume millions of gallons of water per day for cooling purposes. In some areas, data centres have been linked to droughts in nearby communities.
To complicate matters, it’s not just the data centres themselves but the devices that fill them which also contribute to their growing carbon footprint. Routers, switches, servers, storage systems, and other components all generate carbon emissions during manufacturing, and when they reach the end of their lifespan, they often wind up in landfills as e-waste. The industry is moving towards environmentally friendly designs, with up to 75% of IT organizations planning to implement sustainability initiatives by 2027. Still, businesses are concerned about the environmental impact of their cloud computing, and increased regulatory oversight is imminent.
Ways to Increase Energy Efficiency in Data Centres
As regulatory agencies and businesses alike increase their focus on energy consumption in data centres, there are some solutions that different parties can collaborate on to make these facilities more efficient.
Strategic selection of data centre location
Studying fluctuations in renewable energy such as solar and wind power can help IT companies make data-driven decisions when selecting data centre locations. Businesses can also study regions to ensure they’re not placing new centres in areas that are already prone to droughts or other environmental concerns.
With that said, there are regulatory considerations to bear in mind. In Europe, for example, GDPR prevents organizations from moving data centres overseas. Relocating data centres too far could also lead to latency issues and compromise the computing experience. Companies will therefore need to strike a balance and select a lower carbon intensity region that will still satisfy their business requirements.
Sustainability of data centre devices
When evaluating purchasing needs for data centre equipment, IT decision makers will need to examine a host of factors. For example, how can they maximize the lifespan of their existing assets, and when do assets truly need to be replaced from a business need standpoint?
Manufacturers also play an important role in promoting device sustainability. They must take a new approach to move away from designed obsolescence and instead focus on a design that allows for repairs and refurbishment.
Many businesses are also turning to prefabricated data centres as an efficient solution. It will be critically important to ensure these new centres are designed with sustainability in mind. Partnering with a vendor who specializes in sustainable initiatives is a good place to start.
Another area of opportunity for data centre sustainability lies in evolving battery technologies. Currently, diesel generators are a core component of the data centre ecosystem. They go largely unused but still require fuel replacement despite periods of inactivity. When they do get used, they produce significant carbon emissions. Batteries featuring hydrogen fuel cells could be a more sustainable alternative. While these too pose certain environmental concerns, their carbon footprint is likely to be smaller overall.
One way to make data centres more efficient is to turn to a trusted electronics recycling company for data centre decommissioning, thereby minimizing your carbon footprint when devices reach the end of their lifespan. Quantum can streamline the decommissioning process and ensure your unneeded assets are handled safely and efficiently. Find out more here.