Putting data centres on an energy diet

The energy requirements of data centres can be significantly reduced with suitable cooling technology.

The world’s hunger for data is making itself felt everywhere and is increasing inexorably: whether it be in smartphones, production facilities or traffic monitoring. These data are processed, stored and forwarded in data centers. As larger and larger amounts of data are processed, more and more data centers are needed – and these in turn require ever greater amounts of energy. Between 2010 and 2020, the energy demand in German data centers increased by over 50 percent to 16.5 billion kilowatt hours. This corresponds to the annual electricity demand of around four million households. A large part of this energy is used to cool the servers. “This is why it’s so important to pay attention to the dimensioning of the cooling equipment and the performance it claims to provide,” explains Vera Gräff, Technical Head of the TÜV NORD Laboratory for Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Ventilation Technology (HVAC) in Essen, Germany.

Especially when it comes to designing, retrofitting or expanding data centers, a lot of attention needs to be paid to the cooling technology. The product data sheets of the cooling units should be greeted with a certain degree of scepticism, says the engineer. In her experience, the data are sometimes unrealistic in terms of the stated power consumption values: “In our laboratory tests, individual devices deviated by up to 70 percent from the values claimed on paper.” If such energy-intensive equipment uses much more energy than claimed, this makes itself very strongly felt and increases operating costs immensely. For this reason, many operators make use of independent tests before investing in new refrigeration technology.

Interestingly, the cooling system is also an important aspect in terms of the certification of data centers, as Mario Lukas, Senior Sales & Account Manager for Data Centers at TÜViT, reports. “We have a lot of customers who get us to certify the availability of their data centers mission critical infrastructure.” However, he says, high availability is always accompanied by technology with multiple redundancies, which can in cases of doubt lead to a higher energy demand. This is why he has been seeing a sharp increase in interest in energy efficiency and sustainability certificates in the data center environment. “To meet this increasing demand, in our new TSE.STANDARD – Trusted Site Energy Efficiency – we’ve developed a methodology that combines the requirements for an energy management system in accordance with ISO 50001 with the requirements for data centers in line with EN 50600”, explains Mr Lukas. Its special feature is that it distinguishes between four levels of maturity. Based on the status quo, these are the milestones for continuous optimisation in the direction of energy-efficient and sustainable data center operation.

Operators of data centers would be well advised to get to grips with the issue now: The new German government’s coalition agreement stipulates that data centers should become carbon-neutral by 2027; with 2030 set as the European target under the Green Deal. Although one could theoretically rely on green electricity – whether this will be available in sufficiently large amounts is highly questionable. An alternative would be to offset greenhouse gases, says Mario Lukas: “For sustainability reasons, however, we recommend a sensible long-term investment in modern, energy-efficient technology. A good data center these days is one that’s permanently on an energy diet.” Another bonus: A certified energy management system with a high degree of maturity can in turn support potential customers in their sustainability efforts and enhance their loyalty to the data center.

 

More information on independent laboratory tests for refrigeration units: www.tuev-nord.de/en/company/buildings/refrigeration-air-conditioning-and-ventilation-technology/

More information on the certification of the energy efficiency of data centers:
www.tuvit.de/en/services/data-centers-colocation-cloud-infrastructures/energy-efficiency-of-data-centers

 

About TÜV NORD GROUP

Since our foundation over 150 years ago, we have been the global byword for security and trust. As a knowledge-based company, we have the digital future firmly in mind. With specialists ranging from engineers and IT security professionals to professionals for the mobility of tomorrow, We use our expertise in about 100 countries to ensure that our customers will be even more successful in the networked world.

Annika Burchard

Industry, Energy, TÜV NORD Akademie

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