Unlocking green data centres to meet environmental demands

Atesh Mani

By Atesh Mani, National Product Manager, Mitsubishi Electric Australia

Over recent years, the tech industry has reached significant milestones on the road to carbon neutrality, largely due to the emergence of green data centres. As companies locally and worldwide endeavour to reduce their carbon footprint, seeking sustainable solutions will continue to be a top priority for businesses.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 countries, including Australia, and began serving as a framework for new countermeasures in the fight against climate change. Its main goal is to achieve a carbon-neutral world in the twenty-first century, where a balance is realised between the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were born around the same time, with one of the 17 goals conceived to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Electric power is a critical resource for data centres, which are fundamental components of digital infrastructure, and moving forward, these facilities will need to adapt to a new era and become green data centres, where power consumption is strictly managed with environmental goals in mind.

Green data centres are critical for a sustainable future

ICT and the rapid digital transformation of businesses, including the adoption of IoT, put data centres, which form the digital infrastructure behind everything, under immense pressure. The service life of a data centre typically spans between ten and twenty years, which means that the data centres built in the 2000s to support the rapid popularisation of computers and networks are now reaching the end of their lifespans.

The modern mindset about global environmental issues is changing, and future data centres are expected to implement specific measures that take this into account. At the same time, international awareness of environmental issues is increasing, and data centres built in the future will be required to take concrete measures.

One indicator for evaluating the environmental friendliness of a data centre is by using the value PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness), which is the ratio of the total amount of power used by a facility to the amount of electric power consumed by the IT equipment.

A decade ago, PUE levels were at 2.0 or higher. This means it is critical to cut down on power used by such non-IT equipment to keep power consumption at data centres under control.  In other words, cutting down on power used by such non-IT equipment is required for keeping power consumption at data centres under control.

In recent years, target PUE has been falling in the range of 1.3 to 1.5. Being a manufacturer of air conditioners, power supply equipment and other products, Mitsubishi Electric uses a variety of methods to bring PUE numbers down, pushing forward with efforts to promote the establishment of green data centres.

Curbing power consumption while increasing operational efficiency

A closer look at the power consumption of non-IT equipment reveals that IT cooling equipment accounts for more than half of the total power consumption at data centres.

To minimise this, more environmentally friendly air-conditioning options have become available, which take advantage of the temperature differences between indoor and outdoor air. Such systems help lower PUE numbers by allowing data centres to make significant cuts in power consumption, to a far greater extent, than would be possible with normal air conditioners.

Data centres also require a stable supply of power feeding to IT equipment. Even though UPS units, which protect against power flicker caused by, for example, lightning surges, are a must, their power consumption is considerable. The UPS products by Mitsubishi Electric keep power consumption low by reducing power loss, which arises during power conversion, using the company’s proprietary Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBT). These semiconductors have achieved one of the highest levels of efficiency seen in the industry.

Today, there are also incredibly advanced software solutions available that track energy usage of a data centre. These systems help monitor and control equipment status by gathering relevant data in one place on a network. By monitoring and analysing the power consumption of each floor, server room, and other compartments, as well as the power consumption of air conditioning systems, operational efficiency can be improved.

A promising road ahead

As new, innovative tech comes to the table, the road to a more sustainable future is promising. With businesses looking towards more sustainable products and solutions, this new generation of green data centres are set to provide a robust, long-lasting digital infrastructure, while also helping to minimise environmental impacts.


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