How a focus on sustainability affects energy and connectivity

Cabinets inside a data unit at the Nautilus Data Technologies facility in Stockton. (Photo: Nautilus Data)









































































































































































































Last week we continued Article series On the role that sustainability should play in the development and deployment of data centers. This week we explore how a focus on sustainability can affect your choices about energy and connectivity.

Sustainability

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Are there different choices to make when focusing on sustainability in site selection? The answer is perhaps. The choices to make are the same as those of any traditional data center site, but with an emphasis on building a sustainable data center from the site up. So let’s take a look at how the focus on sustainability affects your choices about power.

Energy

No matter what energy efficiency you can achieve in your data center, a reliable power supply is an absolute requirement. With a focus on delivering a carbon neutral data center, high cost owners have invested in and purchased carbon credits to offset the energy generated to run and workload their facilities. This methodology simplifies carbon neutrality but differs from building a data center with a sustainable energy source or sources. Concerns about energy cost are basically the same for a sustainability-focused data center as for a traditional one. However, a commitment to sustainable infrastructure may give you more flexibility about the cost of energy.

There are five types of renewable energy recognized as such by the US government:

  • Hydroelectricity
  • Geothermal
  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Biomass

Hydroelectricity and geothermal energy

Of these five types of renewable energy, only the first two, hydro and geothermal, are fully sustainable and able to meet the energy needs of a data center. Like any of these solutions, the ability to provide 100 percent of the required energy using these methods depends on the location of your data center site. Although hydropower is available at most locations or power providers purchase their power from hydroelectric sources, the ability to locate a renewable power source is not something that is possible everywhere. Geothermal energy is available in only a few locations as a primary source of energy but it is readily available in countries such as Iceland and New Zealand, which, as small island nations, means that transportation costs across the country also remain low. while the The United States is the leader in geothermal power generationled by California and Hawaii, is not readily available as you move east of Utah.

Solar and wind energy

Both solar and wind energy are used to supplement energy production as renewable sources. Choosing energy providers that support or operate these renewable technologies can improve your data center’s overall sustainability rating.

Solar energy has now gone through years of development, and the history of environmentally hazardous by-products from the production process is successfully dealt with.

Wind can be a cost-effective way to generate energy if implemented correctly. Solar energy has now gone through years of development, and the history of environmentally hazardous by-products from the production process is successfully dealt with. Intermittency issues with both solar and wind energy are mitigated by advances in battery technologies, as current batteries rely on lithium-ion and LiFePO4 manufacturing processes that address many issues that the many versions of lead-acid batteries in use have not been able to address.

Biomass

Biomass energy is produced on a large scale mainly via garbage to steam plants where the garbage is used to generate energy. According to the EIA, approximately
13.5 billion kWh of energy was generated through these facilities last year. While there are locations where this type of power can easily be found and used by data center operators, there are fewer than 80 such facilities in the US, with the number slowly declining as they are phased out.

Connection

There are few, if any, special considerations that must be made to connect to a well-chosen sustainable data center site. Like any data center, the more connectivity options, the better. Unless it is purpose-built for a particular type of connection, your site should allow you to be neutral with multiple ways to install the fibers. The availability of dark fibers can also be an added advantage, further expanding the range of options for data center users.

Download the entire paper,”Sustainability in choosing a data center location Courtesy of Nautilus Data Technologies, to learn more. In our next article, we’ll explore how a focus on sustainability will affect your choices about cooling, environmental impact, and your long-term prospects.

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