Data centers’ efficiency & decarbonization

Data Centers’ efficiency and decarbonization are strictly related.

We believe that the so-called digitalization will support the circular economy, the decarbonization of all sectors and will helps us achieve the sustainability goals that the European Green New Deal has set.

As a result of this belief, constant innovation has been favourably received and the digital sector has been growing at a high speed, breaking into the lives of many – even those who were not tech-savy had to learn quickly because of the now intensive use of digital tools.

The lockdown, for instance, has made all of us familiar with the concept of remote working. The restrictive measures imposed by governments across the world to slow down and control the spread of Coronavirus, have in many cases led us to a heavier use of digital tools, so we could be able to carry out our activities while respecting social distancing and be safe.

Digital tools and platforms not only make our lives easier. They are now more than ever fundamental to keep being productive or to keep vital support systems operating.

 

Is digital really green?

 

Have you ever wondered what is the environmental footprint of the digital sector?

Computers, electronic devices and digital infrastructures are responsible for consuming vast amounts of electricity. And electricity, if it is not generated from renewable sources, produces greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, digital technologies used in the transmission, reception and processing of data and information produced 2% of the global CO2 emissions; in 2020 emissions reached 3.7% and will reach 8.5% in 2025 – the equivalent of the emissions generated from all light vehicles on the road (Source: The Shift Project in the Report: LEAN ICT – TOWARDS DIGITAL SOBRIETY). And in in 2040, the impact of the digital sector might reach 14% («Assessing ICT global emissions footprint»).

Images, ultra-definition videos for smart TVs, distributed sensors, images taken from security cameras, robotization, smart cities, digital video calls, online services, instant messaging, data created, used and requested every day – non-stop – by industries, public administrations, hospitals, banks, research centers and by us users. This is all part of the ever-expanding “digital world” and requires energy.

 

The impact we can’t see

 

We only seem to see the surface and we do not really see what is behind our connected life, which is not just simply made possible by the Internet, satellites and cables at the bottom of the ocean. There are also Data Centers. Physical infrastructures allocated elsewhere, consisting of optical fibers, routers, processing centers stuffed with computers, and cooling systems, which both need massive amounts of energy. That is what a data center looks like.

Data centers are essentially facilities and infrastructures responsible of storing, processing data and information we produce and use on a daily basis.

 

Where does the energy Data Center use come from?

 

In 2017, Greenpeace Association published a report showing the energy footprint of large Data Center operators (Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft among the others) and about 70 between websites and applications. According to the report only a minor percentage of the energy used by data centers is clean energy coming from renewable resource, while the majority of the energy used is generated through combustion.

And the fact that data traffic will increase in the next years due to the growth of the Internet of Things, the multiplication of applications such as smart meters, video surveillance, health monitoring, transport and tracking of parcels or resources, all this will also increase the need of building data centers in the next few years, which, will have a greater impact on the environment if these facilities keep consuming dirty energy in vast amounts.

 

Efficiency is an important aspect

 

It must be said that the energy efficiency of digital devices and infrastructures is constantly improving, and this is good for the environment, but we are still far from a Digital transformation that can really be a means of reducing energy consumption and lead to decarbonization. It can be with a more efficient use of energy, though.

 

HVAC sector can contribute to a more efficient use of energy in Data Centers

 

HVAC systems for Data Centers

Data centers usually operate 24/7 all year round, consuming vast amounts of energy, not only to supply servers with power, but also to remove the huge quantity of heat they generate. Removing heat is fundamental as it prevents electrical components from overheating and fail. So, this process essentially ensures reliability continuity of operations. Reliability is a very important aspect, but HVAC systems’ energy-efficiency is another aspect to not neglect.

The energy consumption for a typical data center is usually split this way:

 

IT equipment 50%

Cooling and HVAC systems 35%

Electrical Infrastructure & Support 10%

Lighting 5%

 

Therefore, HVAC systems can have an important impact on how efficient the whole facility ends up being, as they determine how much energy the facility will consume to carry out operations.

Read more about HVAC systems4 and Data Centers here.

 

How can HVAC equipment provide value for these projects?

 

Controls and options such as Free Cooling have definitely a role in making the HVAC system for a Data Center more energy efficient. There is no doubt about that. Selecting highly efficient chillers, though, is a good starting base.

Check here Daikin Free cooling optrions.

 

The Screw Inverter Compressor

 

We know the compressor is the technology at the core of a chiller, as it determines how efficient the chiller will be.

Daikin has a history of leadership in the field of single screw compressor chillers, which have been installed all over the world for 20 years. Over time, Daikin has introduced and integrated ground-breaking Variable Volume Ratio (VVR), or the refrigerant cooled inverter technology, for instance, have been directly integrated in the single screw compressor design. All of these technologies have helped increasing compressors and chillers’ efficiency, not just focusing on full load efficiency but also focusing on part load.

 

The impact of the screw inverter technology on Data Centers’ efficiency

 

The study: “Trends in Data Center Energy Consumption under the European Code of Conduct for Data Center Energy Efficiency” analysed 289 Data Centers in Europe of different capacity levels, finding that, Data Centers consume on average 1.8 kW of electricity per single kW of critical IT load. This means the only way to minimize the overall impact of Data Centers is making them more energy-efficient overall, using efficient technology.

Here are the potential ​​savings that a 10,000 kW air cooled Daikin Screw Inverter chiller system which is 15% more efficient than the fixed speed screw solutions, may guarantee. This theoretical simulation is run over three different climatic zones, for an ideal data center employing 10 chiller of 1,000 kW each.

The analysis suggests that considerable savings can be obtained on operating costs and energy by choosing screw inverter chillers versus fixed speed screw solutions. Therefore, even if the purchaise price of Inverter screw solutions is higher than fixed speed, a relatively quick return on investment (ROI) can be obtained thanks to lower operating costs.

It is suggested to periodically run comparisons with up-to-date technologies over the annual temperature profile of the data center location. Clearly, the goal is, to ensure data centers are always equipped with the most efficient cooling equipment, which translates into lower operating costs and reduced environmental footprint (less energy required for the same cooling capacity).

 

Location ENERGY SAVINGS SAVINGS ON OPERATING COSTS ROI
Southern Europe 660080 kWh                                                99,210 € 10 months
Central Europe 377962 kWh                                                67,315 € 15 months
Northern Europe 206300 kWh                                                25,870 € 39 months

 

Are you interested in Daikin Single Screw Inverter solutions for a HVAC project involving a Data Center? Then, get in touch with the form below.

 

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* “Trends in Data Centre Energy Consumption under the European Code of Conduct for Data Centre Energy Efficiency”, Avgerinou et al., Energies (2017)