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The "Green" Factor: Sustainable Data Centers in the Era of Digitalization

In 2020 only German data centers consumed a total of 16 billion kilowatt hours of energy.
News | 15.10.2021

According to researcher Dr. Ralph Hintemann of the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability, the energy demand has increased by 1 billion kWh compared to 2019 resulting in a CO2 emission of 6.5 million tons (Strommix Deutschland 2020). These facts combined with increasing digitalization raises the question: How can data centers become compatible with sustainability and climate protection?

Starting where others stop thinking and offering tailored solutions is important. Important factors such as strategy, security, and efficiency in the view of sustainability have top priority at Data Center Group. Providers who offer infrastructures such as data centers must aim to protect customer data. But at the same time, they also have to design sustainable processes and prepare IT infrastructures for future challenges.

Digitalization, data hunger and energy management

Sustainability – a keyword with an influence on trendsetting data center construction like no other. Already in 2020, the annual energy consumption of IKT in Germany was 58.4 terawatt hours as per reports on the German and global energy consumption and CO2 emission by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

Especially the enormous energy consumption of more than 16 billion kilowatt hours emphasizes the importance of access to regenerative energy, for instance from wind, hydro, solar, biomass and geothermal power plants. In their customers’ data centers, Data Center Group does not only regulate the systems but also guarantees clean monitoring while taking care of the energy management. This requires an analytical information tool that recognizes the maintenance rhythms of the data center facilities in advance. In the view of cooling, this concerns the anticipatory adjustment to seasonal temperature changes.

Green IT is a decisive competitive advantage

The PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) value clarifies the energy efficiency between the energy consumption of a data center and the whole IT infrastructure. Data centers operate energy-efficiently and sustainably if the PUE value is as low as possible. The current average value for German data centers is 1.63.

The PUE value of the latest DCG major project – Main DC Offenbach – is comparatively low. The high-availability data center shows a PUE value of 1.2 and thus has an outstanding environmental balance sheet standing out from the competitive average.

Tested and awarded: sustainable data centers "Made in Germany"

Since 2019 the eco label "Blue Angel for energy-efficient data center operation" stipulates a minimal value of 8 for the annual performance factor and a maximum PUE of 1.3. In order to be awarded the "Blue Angel" for data centers only halogen-free refrigerants must be used.

"The Blue Angel - which is now also available for colocation data centers - is that important as it is the only certification option that also specifies binding criteria for data center energy performance, both infrastructure and IT",

says Dr. Dieter Thiel, Senior Consultant Energy Concepts at Data Center Group. Standards and Guidelines, such as DIN EN 50600 for data center certification, also regulate the procedure for sustainable data center construction.

Waste heat utilization in data centers: How to effectively exploit energy-saving potentials

"The addition of waste heat potential of large and medium-sized data centers in Germany provides a total energy amount sufficient to heat 1.2 million medium-sized flats", emphasizes Dr. Dieter Thiel. The usage of data center waste heat on an economically relevant range requires solutions for waste heat temperature levels of 25 °C occurring in air-cooled data centers. In the near future they will achieve a market share of 90 %. At present, singular solutions and lighthouse projects relying, among other things, on the use of artificial intelligence mark the technical possibilities – but up to now without significant multiplication options. In Germany, waste heat utilization for space heating on a larger scale is practically non-existent.
However, innovative sustainability concepts taking effective methods for post-heating utilization into account already exist in various forms such as algae farms, hydroponics, vegetable cultivation or fish fattening in industrial plants and modules. These are only a few examples of concrete waste heat utilization concepts.

Sustainable data center concepts are the only logical step towards future

It goes without saying that only "green" data centers are sustainable and future-proof. In addition to concrete figures measuring energy efficiency, other factors such as consulting, sustainable construction planning and implementation, energy-efficient solutions, energy-saving use of resources and smart monitoring play a decisive role. At DCG, the focus is on considering projects in an individual way and working them out accordingly. When implementing data center projects, it is essential to always have a good mix of own experts and external partners.
¹ Dr. Ralph Hintemann: Cloud Computing benefits from the crisis. Energy demand of data centers keeps increasing despite Corona; Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability² Ebd.

Editor’s note: This press release was first published as a technical article under the title 'The "Green" Factor: Sustainable Data Centers in the Era of Digitalization' in dotmagazine 09/2021.

Pictures: © THINK b / #200725499 / (Standard licence)

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