The data center industry continues to evolve in its quest to improve how energy is procured, consumed and distributed with the goals of reducing environmental impact and cutting cost.

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to achieving these goals. The efforts and investments required are intense and ever-changing. For those who are committed to the journey, the path to sustainability is long, but increasingly well-traveled. Organizations like the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, REBA, the Data Center Coalition’s energy committee and the RE100 can help guide those companies looking to make a difference.

Here are a few of the ways enterprise data centers, hyper-scale operators and multi-tenant colocation facilities are enhancing the sustainability profile for the industry:

  • Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and Virtual PPAs – by investing in solar, wind and other renewable energy projects, buyers are supporting the development of new and clean sources of energy for themselves and their communities, which have the dual effect of reducing environmental impact and creating opportunities to generate new streams of revenue
  • Supply Chain Discipline – data center construction requires large quantities of steel, concrete, aluminum and copper. Low-carbon alternatives and new manufacturing methods are reducing the Co2 outputs for these materials. Adoption is increasing for these materials and buyers should mandate suppliers invest in clean alternatives wherever possible.
  • Monitoring and Actionable Analytics – by now most of the key electrical and mechanical infrastructure within the data center is equipped with sensors and instrumentation that allows for real-time performance monitoring and historical trending. Operators are equipped with the data they need to adjust equipment to reduce energy consumption and identify systems that need to be tuned for greater efficiency.
  • Dynamic Power Distribution – delivering the power needed at the rack level and allowing customers to purchase only what they need eliminates over-provisioning and waste. Smart operators have installed the electrical infrastructure to support dynamic power distribution.

In addition, sophisticated data center operators are exploring and implementing high-capacity energy storage, on-site co-generation, waste heat reclamation, and immersion technologies. Building envelope insulation, smart water usage and experimentation with higher temperature set points are all ways that data center operators are working towards reducing environmental impact and cost.

No silver bullets, but lots of ammunition to combat climate change and do the right thing for our industry, customers, communities and the planet.

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