Cooling is one of the biggest costs for data centres, both in terms of the financial costs for energy and the environmental costs. Cooling is the primary energy consumption source in the majority of data centres, which is why operators are becoming increasingly concerned with finding natural solutions for greener cooling. An overview of what a data centre is can be found in the PDF attachment to this post. Data centres generate a lot of heat and so cooling is an essential requirement, but there is potential for more sustainable methods of cooling to be implemented than those currently being used, resulting in a greener future. Marcel Kooter has a passion for discovering sustainability solutions that embrace the need for world energy while making better use of the limited resources of the planet. With digital expansion consuming large amounts of energy across the world, embedding sustainability into data centre systems and processes is essential. 

Cooling Costs 

The cost of cooling data centres is huge, particularly in terms of the amount of energy required. Estimates from a recent report states that as things stand, data centres will be consuming a fifth of global electricity usage by 2025. As demand for bigger and better servers is only going to increase, so will the demand for more data centres. Each data centre currently requires large industrial equipment in place for cooling, such as cooling towers, pumps and chillers. These are necessary to regulate the temperature of the data centres. Financially there is also a large cost, as operators need to not only purchase but also constantly maintain this equipment. Further costs are incurred when looking at improving efficiency. The combination of the financial and environmental impact is leading to more demand for sustainable cooling solutions. 

Natural Cooling Solutions 

Some of the world’s leading technology companies have turned to investments in data centres in the cold Nordic regions, taking advantage of naturally cold air temperatures to benefit from environmental and cost savings. There are a variety of other natural cooling solutions being explored outside of those that require extreme weather conditions. One consulting company recently reported success with a data centre opened in Swindon, which uses natural cooling methods and has generated a reduction in running costs of 80% and a reduction in carbon emissions of 50%. A US-based survey found that nearly half of the data centres in the country are currently saving on costs and energy usage through utilising natural cooling methods. 

The infographic attachment looks at five of the best sustainable data centres today. 

Sustainable Air Filtering 

Natural cooling is a complex process involving the sustainable filtering of air from the outside to produce the required cooling effect to the correct temperature. There are various approaches being trialled and used at present. One is a free-air cooling system, which is the most commonly used and relies on drawing air in through specially designed filters that can remove impurities or any particles present. Moisture content is measured within the system and processed in real time. This prevents elements such as particles or impurities or an incorrect humidity level from causing problems with the temperature. Heat wheels is another approach to natural cooling, whereby generated heat from the data centre is exchanged with cooler air from outside. This uses a transfer system of superior thermal mass of metal and large metal surfaces. 

A “Fossil Free Data Label” is being introduced into the industry to measure sustainability in data centres. Learn more about this in the embedded short video.