As cloud networking and demand for more servers and computers increases, so does the demand for more data center infrastructure. The international data corporation estimates that 152,000 new devices will be connecting to the internet every minute by 2025. Global data traffic is also doubling every four years. Yet as our need for more data centers increases, so does our need for them to be sustainable.
As of the first quarter of 2019, there are around 458 large-scale data centers. And they’re responsible for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions and make up 3% of our global electricity consumption. That’s equivalent to the metrics for the entire airline industry.
So now’s the chance for technology companies (and other companies that use data centers) to do some real good. It’s an opportunity for them to power their operations with renewable energy, as some companies have already done.
How do data centers impact the environment?
Each data center is different, with varying emissions and energy consumption. Data centers consume 70 billion kW hours of electricity every year. They also have seemingly endless rows of servers, as well as HVAC units that need to run 24/7. So it’s no surprise that globally, they consume 3 percent of the electric supply. Hence, whenever a tech company, government agency, or educational institution relies on data centers, they should consider the corresponding environmental footprint.
Big tech companies use renewable energy to power operations
Google has thought about optimizing its environmental footprint for a while now. For instance, since 2017, the tech giant purchased enough renewable energy to match 100 percent of its annual global electricity consumption. The company also recently developed AI through its subsidiary DeepMind to shift the timing of computing tasks to when renewable energy sources are plentiful, further reducing its carbon footprint.
YIT announces new sustainable data centers
Just today, the largest Finnish and North European construction company YIT announced it would start building new sustainable data centers. In its press release, it says they will be “autonomous, sustainable and powered by renewable energy.”
“As wind turbines, hydropower and even solar panels provide energy for the data center, the waste heat created by data processing is then in turn sold and transferred to a nearby greenhouse where it helps local farmers grow food products,” YIT says.
“YIT has already scouted certain locations in Sweden and a couple in Norway and Finland that are considered suitable places for building a data center.”
Lauren Beauban is an Editorial Fellow at theRising, where she covers sustainability news and influential people in the industry. She is also interested in environmental policy and how it affects people. You can pitch her stories at firstname.lastname@example.org