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Do Green Data Centers Exist?
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Blog...Do Green Data Centers Exist?

Do Green Data Centers Exist?

Ecology News
Technology
green and yellow chords
In this article, we’ll review what a green data center is, why they are important, and green data centers running around the world today and potential solutions for the future.
Ecology News
2023-11-06T00:00:00.000Z
en-us
green and yellow chords

If you told someone in 1992 that they would be able to access their phonebook by logging into their iCloud or Google Drive account on a desktop thousands of miles away while traveling, they would think you’re insane – but data centers (and those able to qualify as a green data center) have changed the way we store information forever.

However, the problem with data centers is that they contribute to excess greenhouse gas emissions due to their need for constant electricity – which is why a green data center might be the answer to all of our problems in regards to digital data storage.

In this article, we’ll review what a green data center is, why they are important, and green data centers running around the world today and potential solutions for the future.

What is a data center?

If you’ve ever wondered exactly where all of the photos and files you’re saving to the “cloud” goes – they aren’t actually being stored up in the air, but at a data center still on the ground. 

A data center refers to the place where information that people choose to store on the internet is stored, as all of that information needs to be accessible on a hard drive before users can access it for download via the cloud.
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Data centers are often compiled together in a single room, building, or facility designated for IT infrastructure to help ensure the data can be stored properly and run smoothly.

A few of the different types of data centers include:

  • Public data centers – This type of data center is the most commonly used seeing as it is connected to the internet and allows for easy access to stored data for the user. 
  • Enterprise data centers – With these data centers, the IT infrastructure and data is locally hosted on site, which often allows for an easier time complying with environmental regulations
  • Managed data centers – These data centers are often used to store backup and recovery data for small to medium-sized businesses in the event of a crash or failure. In addition to this, some businesses may choose managed data centers to prevent their information from being exposed on public data centers.

👉 Businesses often rely on applications or records that take up a lot of space, therefore – a data center is essential to complete their everyday tasks. 

chords lit up in dark

What is a green data center?

As technology advances alongside efforts to combat climate change, one of the most conspicuous solutions is to transition to the use of a green data center over a traditional one.

A green data center is a data center that seeks to reduce its environmental impact – such as by aiming to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, and use more sustainable materials or equipment at the green data center itself.
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Think of a green data center as similar to a refurbished laptop – the laptop made out of recycled materials still functions and serves the same purpose as a traditional laptop, just as a green data center can provide the capability for data storage while still aiming towards greater sustainability. 

In fact, many of the components that make up a green data center are often difficult to discern in comparison to a traditional data center – meaning that most of the things that make up a green data center are invisible to the naked eye.

Some qualities of green data centers often include:

  • Mechanisms to improve how heat escapes the machines inside the green data center;
  • Efforts to implement improve air cooling systems to help with heat dissipation;
  • Building machinery with recycled or refurbished materials to prevent waste contributing to landfill and excess greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Implementing renewable energy sources such as solar panels to be used to help power the green data center.

👉 The main difference between a traditional data center and a green data center is that a green data center works to mitigate excess emissions and reduce its environmental impact, whereas a traditional data center is most concerned with the efficiency and accessibility of information.

black data storage

Why is a green data center important?

The reason why a green data center is important is the same reason why small efforts such as making an effort to recycle, use sustainable packaging, and buy a reusable shopping bag or water bottle are all important – because when done collectively, it can make a difference in the climate change crisis we are all fighting against. 

Working to create a more green data center could make a huge difference in emission reductions, seeing as technology continues to become a predominant part of our daily lives and is likely to continue producing excess emissions.

In 2020 alone, data centers accounted for 0.6% of all greenhouse gas emissions – a number that is bound to increase in the coming years as remote work becomes the new norm and as more industries decide to incorporate the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their business operations.

👉 Essentially, remote work becoming more common, new efforts to implement sustainability, and overall increase in the use of technology have all highlighted the need for more green data centers.

Here are a few more reasons why green data centers are becoming important in the midst of climate change and a society dependent on technology:

  • Stakeholders and investors of future green technology projects, such as a data center, may be more likely to invest in a green data center in the future – seeing as ESG and sustainable investments are on the rise;
  • Companies seeking to reduce their emissions will naturally gravitate towards a green data center over a traditional one;
  • A green data center allows for more decentralized or distributed computing models, which can help improve the chances of data recovery if necessary – and ultimately enhances trust and reliability for the companies using the green data center;
  • If more people sought out to use a green data center, it can help to spur the movement necessary to promote the importance of sustainability and encourage other companies and data centers to decarbonize their business operations;
  • When using a green data center, costs may be reduced as using more energy efficient technology can help to lower utility bills;
  • Using a green data center can make complying with new environmental regulations and demonstrating proof of corporate social responsibility easier – both of which are becoming imperative in the movement towards greater sustainability.
Increasing the number of green data centers will be pivotal to help regions of the world like the European Union work towards their goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
red chords plugged in

Is there a green data center currently running in the world?

Seeing as 42% of data centers choose to never track their energy efficiency, it’s hard to believe that there a few viable, green data centers currently up & running – but there are!

It’s important to note that any data center making an effort to reduce its emissions and implement more sustainable choices can be viewed as a green data center.

Here are just a few data centers that have made the effort to go green:

Google

Users of google drive can rest easy knowing that this data center has been putting its best foot forward to go green.

Some efforts on behalf of Google’s data center located in Finland to become a green data center include recycling 100% of the electronics before replacing them, and making use of seawater cooling – which uses deep-sea cold water to cool systems within the green data center, ultimately reducing freshwater usage.

Apple

If you store your iPhone’s photos on the cloud – it might be going to Apple’s green data center located in North Carolina.

Apple’s green data center makes use of multiple renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro power to keep facilities like their data centers running. In addition to this, Apple’s green data center uses chilled water energy systems and outside air cooling to allow their built-in chillers to remain off ¾ of the time – further reducing energy consumption.

apple logo at store

Citi

Located in Germany, this green data center has been able to reduce its power usage by 30% with the implementation of a green roof – where up to 72% of their roof is covered with vegetation that helps to absorb water and keep the green data center from overheating. 

BendBroadband

This green data center located in Bend, Oregon has made a massive effort to reduce its emissions by implementing the use of solar panels to power all of its non-IT equipment. The green data center in Oregon has also made use of LED lighting to improve energy efficiency and a 900-kilowatt passive passive heat rejection system – which helps the green data center to mitigate all of its water usage.

varied colored chords at data center

How can you turn your data center into a green data center?

Sustainability always starts with the smallest of efforts, and the same can be said and done for your data center if you’re looking to turn it into a green data center. 

Here are just a few ideas to make your data center into a green data center:

  • Use Renewable Energy Sources – Seeking to set up a wind or solar farm could make a huge difference in your energy consumption and qualify your data center to be labeled as a green data center. 
  • Upgrade Your Technology & Servers to be More Energy Efficient – We know that sometimes this tip comes with a hefty price tag, but it can prove worthwhile overtime as your green data center won’t only reduce its energy consumption – but lower your electricity bill, too.
  • Pick the Right Place – Starting a green data center in an area prone to drastic heat or other extreme weather might not be the best idea, therefore – picking a place with cool temperatures, ventilation, and low humidity could help to prevent the need for excessive cooling systems. 
  • Consistently Monitor Your Green Data Center – Improvements can’t be made without frequent checks on how your green data center is currently running, so be sure to make note of where there’s still room for improvement.

Overall, green data centers do exist – but the majority of data centers still have a long way to go before they can be considered green data centers. However, if more data centers join the movement towards sustainability – a green data center could become the new standard in no time.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about green data centers and if they exist has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

It can be difficult to understand how a green data center can have an impact on your business, but don’t worry – Greenly is here to help! Click here to book a demo and get personalized expertise on how various environmental regulations and laws will have an impact on your  own emission reductions and efforts to decrease your environmental impact.

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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