Rapid digitalization and a growing concern about climate change will increase the demand for energy-efficient data centers by 23% over the next five years. Various factors contribute to the optimal environment to deploy a sustainable network of servers at scale. We can observe these factors based on examples of the most efficient data centers in the world.
As the demand for green data storage and processing increases, companies without the capability to achieve a low PUE (power usage effectiveness) domestically will be forced to utilize colocation data centers in regions with favorable conditions.
In 2020, only two markets reported a PUE under the global average according to Uptime Institute's annual Global Data Survey – Europe and the United States. Below we will explore the five most significant factors attributing to data center efficiency.
Building in a cool climate is the easiest path to energy efficiency. Two of Google's most efficient data centers are in The Dalles, Oregon, and Dublin, Ireland. Both climates are extremely mild, even in the summer, allowing for cooling without excessive energy usage.
Data centers in warmer climates must utilize exponentially more resources to keep servers from overheating and increase airflow just to run at baseline capacities
Environmentally conscious government and corporate regulations also push data centers to be more efficient. For example, in the US, the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) helps agencies and organizations construct and maintain sustainable data centers by providing resources and encouraging participation in programs like the Better Buildings Challenge and Data Center Accelerator.
Operating a highly advanced, energy-efficient data center requires allocating natural, human, and technological resources. Countries with undeveloped supply chains and unskilled workforces struggle to develop, build, and maintain efficient facilities.
Cost of Energy
In 2020, Europe's data centers outperformed the United States by 5%. One of the reasons could be the higher cost of energy. Energy consumption regulations in Europe are more strict, incentivizing facilities to utilize other forms of energy.
One example is Kao Data, a developer and operator of carrier-neutral data centers for colocation. The UK company announced in 2021 its plans to transition to hydrotreated vegetable oil fuel in all backup generators eliminating 90% of net CO2 and reducing nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide emissions.
The 2021 Uptime survey found that PUE is flatlining. While more new data centers are achieving PUEs of 1.3 or better, performing at this efficiency level isn't economically viable for older facilities. The only path to reducing PUE is through technological innovations such as direct contact liquid or solid-state cooling.
Warmer regions with fewer environmental regulations and unstable supply chains like South America and the Middle East have a challenging road forward to reach the global average. According to the Uptime Institute's latest report, accessible changes like increasing airflow have already been made, leaving only innovation as a solution.
Most new and recently developed data centers in Europe and the US are in more favorable climates, subject to efficiency standards, and at the forefront of innovation. Therefore, an efficient data center in a warm environment is possible, but it must have a reliable supply chain and utilize highly innovative technology to reach a low PUE.
The Most Energy Efficient Data Centers in the World
Two regions are significantly outpacing the global PUE average due to environment, regulations, economic stability, and innovation. Each factor is important but innovative technology prevails as the unifying force driving all the data centers in these regions to reduce emissions.
The temperate climate, environmentally-conscious population, and history of innovation create the perfect environment for energy-efficient data centers in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.
Verne Global's network of data centers in Iceland sets the global standard across all metrics, not just PUE. The company also advocates against corporate greenwashing or marketing campaigns to help companies seem more sustainable. One of the advantages of hosting servers in Iceland is the country's low Production Carbon Intensity (PCI), the amount of carbon used to generate electricity. Iceland's PCI is only 27 gCO2e/kWh, while other countries in Europe, which are low compared to global figures, are much higher. In comparison, the UK's PCI is 213 gCO2e/kWh, and Germany's is 349 gCO2e/kWh.
While many of the United States' top-performing data centers are in colder regions, like the Microsoft facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and BenBroadband's data center in Bend, Oregon, outliers rely on renewable resources and technology to achieve sustainable emissions.
One of the most impressive examples is the eBay data centers in Phoenix, Arizona, and South Jordan, Utah. The Topaz facility in Utah utilizes a massive 72,000 square-foot solar roof, producing over 900,000 kWh of electricity annually.
Businesses without access to the resources required to build and maintain energy-efficient data storage and processing should strongly consider colocation to limit net greenhouse gas emissions. At Datacenters.com, we provide clients with access to dozens of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. Sign up for our servers on-demand program or schedule a free demo today.
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