Data centres use an enormous amount of energy – whether they label themselves as green or not. Finding ways to use less energy and using it more efficiently is key to reaching our climate goals and facing the ongoing energy crises head-on.
The price of electricity and power has been a big topic of conversation this past winter and will undoubtedly still be a hot topic in years to come. The data centre industry is one of the most energy-consuming and environmentally challenging industries globally, and the need for energy will most certainly only increase.
Several forecasts indicate that the total electricity demand for information and communications technology (ICT) will accelerate in the 2020s and reach all-time elevated levels by 2030. In addition, the data centre industry will consume a larger slice. This development has gone under the radar because electricity prices have been low in Norway.
The price of electricity is the main differentiator
But as the prizes have increased during the winter because the supply has not kept up with the demand, this will undoubtedly get increasing attention. The political party Rødt has already proposed a ban on mining cryptocurrency in Norway due to the enormous amounts of energy these demands. They find it increasingly necessary to prioritise how we use the sustainable energy produced in Norway.
Even though Rødt is a minor political party with limited power at present, it is crucial to take these signals seriously. As the numbers of data centres grow, there will be increasing pressure to make them more energy-efficient to reduce their environmental impact.
All data centres use much energy, and the energy prices in Norway have considerable geographical variations. The energy price is much higher south of Dovre. The location of the data centre is thus essential.
The market dictates the price.
Traditionally it is not the data centres owners but its customers who pay the price. There are only a few of these customers who have fixed-payment agreements. Thus, the soaring prices have impacted them directly.
The market dictates the price of electricity, and even though many may wish that this were not the case, it is the case. And this will not change any time soon. We are a part of a vast energy market where supply and demand are the crucial variables. The government is limited to solutions like giving monetary support to inhabitants or lowering taxes for businesses, but they cannot directly reduce the cost of power.
One way of protecting data centre customers against fluctuations in the price is, as I have already mentioned, to go for a fixed price solution. The danger is that the prices go down even further, and you are bound to a more expensive solution. You have to consider what is profitable overall.
Edge data centres use at least 40 % less energy.
Green Edge Compute is currently developing a green, high-density edge data centre located in the heart of Trondheim, Norway. We rely exclusively on renewable energy, leveraging existing buildings, and using efficient liquid cooling methods.
The new data centre will consume at least 40 per cent less energy than the traditional data centres. It also enables waste heat utilisation in the city's district heating system. The customers using our data centres will thus support a more sustainable solution at the same time as they will cut their costs.
Intelligent power-saving systems using algorithms
An innovative data centre can use algorithms to buy electricity in bulk when the prices are low and utilise it when prices are high. You can also manage when the data centre completes specific computing tasks.
That makes it possible to complete tasks with high electricity demands when the prices are lower. Thus, creating savings for both the data centre operators and their customers.
This intelligent power-saving system using algorithms is customised and built into our green edge data centres. When more data centres are in place in Stavanger and Oslo by 2022, and in all significant Nordic cities by 2026, we will be able to do specific tasks where the prize is lower - or where the excess heat is most needed.
90 % of waste heat can be reused with our solution
It is actually possible to reuse 90 % of the heat our data centres generate in district heating systems. Most other data centre operators do not use this excess heat. Our technology enables efficient use, such as municipal heating in schools. The energy is effectively being used twice, thus saving power.
In Green Edge Compute, we prefer to deliver the excess heat directly into a district heating system instead of to specific buildings. The benefits are that it is less dependent on seasonal variations in demand. In that way, the power generated can be used most sustainably anywhere needed.
A holistic view with liquid cooling
As demonstrated, it is possible to reduce data centres' need for electricity by implementing changes in the traditional way of operating both on a macro and micro level. Today, most data centres produce an enormous amount of heat wasted in cooling towers. Changing your cooling method from air to liquid cooling means reducing the power needed by 40 % and reusing 90% of the energy.
Everybody should be doing it, but Green Edge Compute is the only company with a holistic view right now.
We are building our first data centre in Trondheim at present. As part of this project, we collaborate closely with the scientist at SINTEF to measure and calculate sustainability. We will publish their report and results by June of 2022.