The researchers at SINTEF were surprised by how much more energy efficient and sustainable a Green edge data center is, compared to other Norwegian and European data centers. HPE and Trondheim Municipality believe the results potentially may transform an entire industry in a more sustainable direction.
– I was ecstatic when I read the SINTEF report. My first thought was: We made it! Says Chief Commercial Officer Patrik Hagelin.
The data center industry is one of the industries worldwide that use the most energy and emits the most CO2. Data centers worldwide have a more significant negative climate footprint than the entire aviation industry. A new data center concept in Trondheim may be part of the solution to this growing problem. The saving potential for CO2 emissions is close to 90% compared to European data centers and 60% compared to other Norwegian.
SINTEF performed an in-depth analysis of the energy and CO2 emissions
Green Edge Computes's big idea was to develop compact, edge data centers near the end user. Using well-proven technologies, combined in new ways, was the key. Replacing air-cooling with liquid cooling, locating the data centers in urban areas in existing buildings, and utilizing the excess heat were the main drivers behind a much more sustainable data center solution.
SINTEF Energy Research and SINTEF Community have performed the "Energy and Life Cycle Assessment of a data server pilot" project on behalf of the company. The scope was to calculate and verify the energy consumption and climate footprint of Green Edge Computes first data center , located in Trondheim.
The primary object of the analysis was to answer the following question:
What energy and emissions savings compared to traditional data centers can be achieved with a compact, liquid-cooled data center with waste heat utilization?
Photo: (from the left) Patrik Hagelin, CCO of Green Edge Compute, James Kallaos - SINTEF Community, and Ole Marius Moen - SINTEF Energy Research presented the initial findings during Datasenterdagen in Oslo. The entire report is now ready.
The results surprised the researchers at SINTEF
– We expected to find a savings potential, but we were surprised by the high numbers. The results show a savings potential for CO2 emissions of up to 90% compared to the European reference and 60% compared to the Norwegian. We have thoroughly reviewed the results several times, and the results are consistent, says the project manager and researcher at SINTEF, Ole Marius Moen.
– The fact that waste heat is reused and replaces fossil energy sources in the district heating systems has a significant effect. Liquid cooling also enables recovering the waste heat at a much higher temperature. In GEC One, the waste heat initially has a temperature of 50 degrees. It is much more efficient for a heat pump to heat the temperature from 50 to 90 degrees than 20 to 90. There would still be savings on energy consumption and CO2 emissions due to the heat pump's efficiency, even if more climate-friendly energy sources had been substituted.
The main findings:
- The results show a savings potential for CO2 emissions of close to 90% compared to the European reference and 60% compared to the Norwegian.
- Compared to the reference Norwegian data center with a 2 MW capacity, the reduction constitutes over 1500 tonnes of CO2 (60%) annually.
- Compared to the reference European data center, the reduction constitutes over 8000 tonnes of CO2 (90%) a year.
- A Green edge data center uses much less energy than other European and Norwegian data centers due to liquid cooling and waste heat recovery at a higher temperature with a more efficient heat pump.
HPE: – Other countries can learn a lot from Green Edge Compute
One of Green Edge Computes strategic partners, HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprises), has delivered the individual servers produced by Intel, storage technology, and other advanced equipment used in the data center for cooling and heat distribution.
The servers are tailor-made to support heavy computing loads, producing and tolerating more heat than traditional servers. The technology is well proven but combined in new and innovative ways. CEO at HPE Thomas Kraft is impressed by the results.
– GECs great idea has enabled us to be a part of this pioneering work for the data center industry. It has been an exciting process, and the SINTEF report proves it is successful. It shows that building data centers with sustainability as a premise is feasible. I believe other countries can learn much from what Green Edge Compute is doing in Trondheim.
– The results may attract international data center players to Norway and more local and international customers to the new data center. Safe and sustainable digitization is possible to achieve. Green Edge now has the ammunition to persuade the public and private sectors. Says Thomas Kraft.
Photo: Thomas Kraft, CEO of HPE, is looking forward to the road ahead with several Green Edge data centers in Stavanger and Oslo.
– The results are fantastic!
The new green data center's location is in the Sluppen area in Trondheim. It is a significant development area focusing on sustainable urban transition. The municipality is at the forefront of a Smart City transformation at Sluppen. The EU-funded project +CityxChange aims to create green, energy-positive districts that can be scaled and replicated across Europe. The project manager, Bjørn-Ove Berthelsen, is excited about the results.
– Sluppen is a vital demonstration area for energy resource optimization and the local production and utilization of renewable energy. We want to be able to call ourselves and be Norway's tech capital. Green edge's data center fits us like a glove. Says Berthelsen, project manager for Lighthouse City Trondheim and +CityxChange.
– The results are fantastic! The SINTEF report documents that Green edge delivers on its promises. It proves to other potential collaborators and us that this concept may be the solution for the industry's future. It may transform the industry because it gives a clear direction for solving the growing problem of energy drain and a lack of sustainability. Such a solution seeing the day of light in Trondheim first is a feather in the cap for us.
Photo: Project manager Bjørn-Ove Berthelsen says Green Edge's data center fits Lighthouse City Trondheim and +CityxChange like a glove.
Telenor: – An excellent example of how technology can create a positive environmental impact
In addition to the technology giants Intel and HPE, Telenor is another of Green Edges' strategic partners. Telenor has provided a cyber security platform that protects all data center customers against hostile attacks.
They will continuously monitor all traffic, and the collaboration ensures that public and private sector customers benefit from the highest security measures possible. Telenor will also deliver connectivity between all Green Edge Compute's data centers. CEO of Telenor Norway, Birgitte Engebretsen, is excited about the results in the SINTEF report:
– This is an excellent example of how technology can create a positive environmental impact. Norwegian data centers provide sustainable solutions, employment opportunities, and other positive ripple effects for local communities. It is inspiring for us in Telenor to contribute to Green edge's project with critical infrastructure and security solutions for their data centers.
A deep dive into the findings of the report
We must distinguish between the Norwegian and European references when investigating more in-depth why GEC One is much more sustainable than its traditional counterparts. The waste heat recovery through liquid cooling is vital when comparing the Norwegian reference data center and GEC One.
The reasons why GEC One is more climate-friendly than the other Norwegian reference data center:
- In Green Edge's concept, the surplus heat produced by the data center can be reused in district heating systems. This energy source is primarily unused in other Norwegian data centers.
- The reused heat is planned to replace other energy sources that district heating operators use today. In this example, it is intended to replace 30 percent LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).
- Liquid cooling enables heat recovery at high temperatures. Combined with a heat pump to raise the temperature to the district heating level, this becomes a very efficient energy recovery method.
- In sum, this means that the energy and emission savings specifically for district heating, SINTEF, has calculated to be approximately 80% and 96% respectively.
- The emission reduction on the district heating side makes up about 2/3 of the overall reduction calculated compared to the Norwegian reference. The data center is more energy efficient due to liquid cooling, which is less energy-demanding than air cooling, but this has little significance to the total savings. The last part of the reduction (1/3) stems mainly from reduced emissions linked to the production of infrastructure, and in particular IT-related infrastructure.
– CO2 emissions are significantly reduced because GEC can use fewer servers in its compact facilities that still deliver the same computing power. The servers and their lifespan are generally essential when we assess CO2 emissions, but here it played a surprisingly decisive role. The analysis shows that the equipment and servers account for the most significant emissions related to the life cycle. In addition, it is an advantage to use existing buildings, but the number of servers is much more critical. Says researcher and project manager Ole Marius Moen.
He emphasizes that there are some uncertainties connected to the findings. There is uncertainty in the source material. In addition, the life cycle analysis was carried out with a total length of 30 years, while the servers are assumed to be replaced every four years. Based on historical development, we expect that a lot will happen in the development of computing power during that period.
The reasons why GEC One is more climate-friendly than the European reference data center:
The most significant energy savings here are because the total energy consumption in a European data center is much higher than in the Norwegian reference.
– A data center in the EU use 50% more energy to deliver the same data services and computing power compared to what we calculated for GEC One. The reference has a PUE - Power Usage Effectiveness (the ratio between total power consumption and IT-related power consumption) of 1.7, while for the GEC One, it is calculated at 1.1. The ideal is 1.0 because, in such a case, all energy consumption would go to computing power. That means a significant energy-saving potential. When you add the reuse of the waste heat for district heating, you get a total energy saving rate of 46.5 percent. Says researcher and project manager Ole Marius Moen.
The emissions savings compared to the European data center variant are linked to the general energy consumption throughout the life cycle. The emission factor for electricity for the EU compared to Norway is more than ten times as high. This means that every kilowatt of electricity produced in a European data center emits more than ten times more CO2. That has a significant impact on the results.
Compared to the European reference, the district heating element and the servers will make a relatively much smaller contribution than the Norwegian one because the CO2 emissions are so much higher in the first place.