Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

How Data Centers are Pioneering Green Technology

Data centers throughout Europe are leading the charge in efficient energy practices and renewable energy.

4 Min Read
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lex coors interxion

By Lex Coors, Chief Data Center Technology and Engineering Officer, Interxion

When you think of spring, you think of good weather and the color green. But today, the color green has taken on a brand-new significance as the symbol of the booming green energy movement. That has become a vital component of Europe’s economy. Data centers throughout Europe are leading the charge in both efficient energy practices and the use of renewable energy, showing that being green is a crucial way to win customers in Europe.

Demonstrating green practices can be a notable business differentiator for service providers looking to sell services to the European market. Europeans care strongly about sustainability: slightly more than eight in ten EU citizens felt that environmental impact was an important element when deciding which products to buy. So, data centers have been implementing energy-saving designs and harnessing everything from arctic winds to underground aquifers to the Baltic Sea to reduce energy use and thus reduce their carbon footprint. So, for US companies trying to take advantage of the European market, colocating in data centers committed to both using green technology and innovating new efficiency measures is a way to distinguish themselves from their competitors.

For data center providers, much of the daily operations involve ensuring the equipment is kept cool to ensure customers’ mission critical applications are kept running 24/7/365. Companies have begun implementing advanced energy-efficient cooling technologies: for example, free cooling reduces the use of electricity, which is still predominantly produced from conventional fuels. These energy efficiency measures are examples of data centers making a positive environmental contribution for its industry and its customers. In addition to energy efficiency, some data centers across Europe have pioneered the use of 100 percent sustainable energy sources, including water, solar, and wind power.

One example of these energy efficiency practices is in Stockholm, where they took it to a whole new level by building infrastructure that reused excess heat to warm households in the city. Meanwhile in Denmark, one data center has developed groundwater cooling as an energy-saving measure. Previously, cooling in the summer months had been based on traditional refrigeration machines that used a lot of power. However, they were able to develop a groundwater-based cooling system that can replace the traditional refrigerants with geo-energy. The result is a system that, summer and winter, can always provide sufficient cooling while significantly reducing energy consumption.

Denmark and the whole Nordic region have evolved into Europe’s leaders in energy efficiency. Not only are some of the facilities in the region designed specifically with byproducts like excess heat in mind, but hyperscalers like Apple and Google have actually applauded the Nordics for their energy efficient data centers.

The great supply of power from sustainable sources like hydro- and wind power combined with the cold climate makes the Nordics an ideal place for building sustainable data centers. Due to this and a fast-growing market in Northern Europe, the industry is seeing an increased number of hyperscale data center projects emerging in Denmark and Sweden.

Green-laden Ireland is another region in Europe where energy efficiency is thriving. The Emerald Isle’s temperate climate makes it perfectly suited for free-air cooling, which uses approximately 40 percent less electricity than typical cooling methods. In addition to energy efficiency, Ireland is a leader in sustainable energy: 26 percent of the energy that Ireland produced in 2016 came from sustainable sources. It also possesses the third-highest wind energy penetration in the world. In fact, Ireland has set a target of having 40 percent of all its energy generated from renewable sources by 2020. It’s quite ambitious, but completely reachable.

In addition to sustainable energy, Ireland data centers are making major contributions in energy efficiency by pioneering new approaches to data center design and management, including improvements around power usage effectiveness and modular approach to data center design.

Efficient and sustainable facilities have changed the conversation around data centers. Once feared as a source of pollution, data centers are now embraced for their energy contributions to surrounding communities. Enterprises that wish to boost their business in energy-conscious Europe have also embraced data centers equipped with green technology. With such enormous benefits to the data center industry, environment, and local communities, it is easy to imagine these green energy initiatives are a win for all.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

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