Energy security refers to uninterrupted accessibility to reliable, continuous, and affordable energy supplies. This article highlights the role of data centers in ensuring energy security.
Energy security refers to the uninterrupted accessibility to reliable, continuous, and affordable energy supplies. In recent years, energy security has received significant international attention due to rising geopolitical and economic tensions. It has had a ripple effect on the energy sector as the volatile international markets threaten to derail the global energy trades.
According to the October 2022 edition of IEA’s World Energy OutlookOpens a new window , the current instability in the energy industry and excessive reliance on gas, coal, and oil sources can lead to a global energy crisis. The situation can escalate to unprecedented heights, forcing a complete transition to more sustainable and secure energy systems in the coming years.
For the power-intensive data center market, energy security has been fundamental to its survival. With the increasing emphasis on power management, companies are focusing on deploying efficient power solutions for their data centers.
According to an October 2022 reportOpens a new window by Allied Market Research, the global data center power market had a valuation of $11.2 billion in 2021 and is estimated to reach $24 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 8% during the 2022 to 2031 period.
Although enterprises and governments are making efforts to lower carbon emissions and increase the energy security of data centers, planning for energy-efficient solutions can play a crucial role in managing the energy demand. Moreover, with the uncertainty surrounding energy costs, data center operators must adopt ways to keep the energy consumption in check.
Ways to ensure energy efficiency in data centers
With the evolving designs of energy-efficient data centers, the operators of legacy servers need to focus on strategies to minimize energy waste at their facilities. Let’s look at some potential practices businesses can consider to ensure energy security.
1. On-site power generation
Data centers can benefit immensely by generating power at their on-site establishments. As power travels from the power grid to the IT equipment, it undergoes conversion from AC to DC and vice versa multiple times. This can cause a loss of power. However, on-site power generation can reduce losses due to power conversion. Moreover, power line transmission losses can also be controlled, thereby promoting energy density at the data centers.
2. Alternative power sources
Organizations need to consider alternative energy sources that can reduce energy consumption and keep track of the carbon footprint of data centers. Renewable energies can be harnessed by installing solar panels, wind turbines, or hydroelectric generators on-site or at nearby local grids. Such options can replace traditional fossil fuels.
Leading companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and TargetOpens a new window have already installed solar panels to power data centers at distribution facilities. It shows their commitment to clean energy.
3. Zero carbon technologies
As companies sense the urgency to reduce carbon emissions, data center operators are contemplating adopting nuclear power as a zero-carbon energy source. Nuclear energy and hydropower offer a pathway to zero-emission power generation.
In Jan 2023, Cumulus announcedOpens a new window the opening of a nuclear-powered data center in northeast Pennsylvania. The zero-carbon Susquehanna data center is set to have a direct connection to 2.5 GW nuclear power stations. This first-of-its-kind data center operates without relying on conventional electric transmission and distribution facilities.
4. Use of data center heat
Data centers consume a significant portion of the world’s electricity. In turn, they produce a tremendous amount of heat that’s generally wasted. This unwanted byproduct of computer servers can be put to use with the right kind of efforts. The heat could potentially warm up houses, offices, or other facilities. It could also be used to heat underground water systems that run across cities and urban areas.
For example, in Sweden, an initiative named Stockholm Data Parks uses heat vented out by the city’s data centers to keep people’s houses warm. The dataOpens a new window reveals that those data centers that produce around 100 MW of energy or more can supply power to about 80,000 homes.
Another example is in the Netherlands, where Switch Datacenters has replacedOpens a new window its gas generator units with data center heating solutions. This has resulted in a cut down on the usage of natural gas for energy generation. The developed system uses direct liquid cooling (DLC) to reuse the server heat. The company’s data says that about 97% of data center heat can be used by community houses and offices.
The Way Forward
Sustainability and green technology will be a key driving force for future data centers. As more and more businesses continue to use data center services, the talks around its energy consumption have gained steam. According to IEA’s December 2021 reportOpens a new window, global data centers consume about 0.9 – 1.3% of total electricity demand.
While businesses and data center operators have a crucial role in implementing sustainable and greener practices, global policymakers need to take steps to ensure their enforcement on the ground. Let’s look at some policies that can propel greener data center solutions.
- Formulate a regulatory framework outlining the deployment of green energy solutions that guarantee reduced usage and reuse.
- Design synergistic approaches that encourage the integration of various sectors of energy systems. For example, allow waste heat from microgrids to warm establishments in need rather than investing in procuring additional heat supply.
- Encourage frameworks that facilitate thermal networks. These heating networks do not tax the waste data center heat used by companies. But instead offer flexible energy prices based on usage.
Data centers have the power to control the trajectory of the energy sector. It can help lower energy prices, ensure zero carbon emissions, and consequently increase energy security. However, it is equally important to implement regulatory policies that push businesses to adopt sustainable practices while they continue to offer data center services.
News published on Spicework
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