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Delivering a Net Zero Carbon Data Centre: Cost Mitigating Solutions

As major consumers of energy, data centres account for a significant portion of the UK's carbon emissions. So striving for net zero carbon should be a priority, but this comes with a price tag. Biniam Micael Sbhatu, RPS, explores five considerations for achieving a net zero carbon data centre, affordably.

17 November 2022 | 3 min read

UK

Data centre power consumption

Data centres have become increasingly important to society and the economy. Consequently, their power consumption has fallen under great scrutiny - currently believed to account for 1.3% of the world's electricity demand. This number is likely to augment, as more and more businesses and individuals rely on them for computing needs. However, considerable headway is being made by data centre operators to improve their facilities.

How to achieve affordable net zero carbon data centres

1. Measure energy efficiency

Data centres must meet a high standard for energy efficiency through measures such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). PUE is the ratio of total power consumed by a data centre to the power consumed by its IT equipment.

The lower the PUE, the more efficient the data centre. In order to achieve optimal performance and reduce environmental impact, data centres must strive for a PUE of Data Centre Infrastructure Efficiency DCiE1.3% or less.

2. Use clean energy

Renewable energy and data centres are a natural fit. Data centres consume a lot of power, while renewable energy is plentiful and sustainable. But until recently, the high cost of renewables has kept them from becoming a mainstream choice for data centre operators.

However, the scenario is starting to change. Renewables are becoming increasingly inexpensive all the time. Operators, too, are beginning to realise that long-term savings can be worth the investment. In some cases, renewables now constitute the most affordable option available. And with concerns about climate change mounting, more and more companies are looking to reduce their carbon footprint, by transitioning to renewable energy sources.

3. Emphasise water efficiency

Essentially, a data centre is only as sustainable as its water usage effectiveness (WUE) – a measure of how much water a facility uses for cooling and other building needs. Inefficient water usage can drive up cooling costs, and data centres operators should look into avenues to reduce their WUE, use water efficiently and reduce their impact on the environment.

4. Adopt circular economy practices

In order to keep servers running smoothly and minimise waste, data centre operators are starting to adopt circular economy practices. This entails repairing and reusing old servers, instead of simply recycling them.

By keeping machines functioning for as long as possible, data centres can reduce their environmental impact and save money on equipment purchases. It's a win-win.

5. Use a circular energy system

As data centres continue to grow, the quantity of energy they consume has become a major concern. The good news is that we’re starting to experience an increased focus on waste heat utilisation, regarded as the next step towards net zero carbon data centres.

By effectively using waste heat, generated by servers and other hardware, we can alleviate the energy needed to run these facilities. This, in turn, helps reduce our carbon footprint and saves us money on electricity bills.

 

The data centre industry is on the cusp of transformation, with companies striving to achieve net zero carbon status.

Our Net Zero Carbon design approach sets out a project pathway to embed best practice sustainable design principles into each project stage. Tackling the building design, materials, engineering solutions, construction and operation, we can guide you to deliver a truly whole life net zero project; or more simply to embed sustainable principles and technology to achieve energy and resource efficiencies in line with your commercial objectives.

 

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