Data Center Trends: Sustainability

Richard Burcher standing in front of the Airedale logoRichard Burcher, Liquid Cooling Global Product Manager, delves into the growing significance of sustainability and increased investments within the data center sector. 


Sustainability - wind turbines

Sustainable infrastructure will likely be distributed moving forward. In the unique grid of the future, the industry could see microgrids deployed at scale. Speed to market remains one of Hyperscale’s number one priorities. Traditional grids are heavily regulated and have grown at a steady, informed rate, behind the aggressive CAGR growth rates witnessed in the data center sector. As a result, the grid cannot compete and catch up at the same rate with the transition of electrification and digitalisation. Consequently, the transition will have to be creative to meet the demand.  

At a macro-level, industries and the data center sector have been looking at ways to drive and invest in clean energy, smart energy solutions, and renewable energy, and driving all elements of design, installation, and operation to drive a more sustainable purpose. The world is arguably behind the level of decarbonisation needed to hold the rise in global temperatures to 1.5˚C.  

There are increasing ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and relevant reports required for investment and regulatory requirements and encouraging signs via the EU. The industry requires a combination of regulation and incentives to make early investments in sustainably led initiatives, sometimes before ROI is agreed.   

Regarding power, there is a proposed transition to renewables over time through nuclear and a path for natural gas. Hyperscale can drive with access to capital and proof of concept (POC)/pilot projects and deployments, which, in turn, will lead to a rollout at scale. Hydrogen is an additional transition that requires investment in infrastructure and balance. Sustainability can be a driver of data center location, and regulation can drive change, i.e. German sustainability targets (EED), in turn are influencing operator locations and use cases, including the potential for heat reuse. For instance, where there are high densities, it creates the opportunity to collect high-grade heat and repurpose that heat to additional use cases.  

It is important to note that in 2024, there will be increased geopolitical risks and opportunities. There is the potential for over sixty government elections worldwide in 2024, which can significantly affect forward-looking investments and strategies. For example, we could see a refocus on basic measures and services, such as transport, medicine, education, and healthcare, at the cost of some unproven, innovative R&D (Research & Development) start-ups, including those looking at sustainability and associated innovation. The hope would be that governments see the long game and the continued need for R&D-led innovation.    

As a business, Airedale continues to drive increased sustainable practices through its operations and the systems provided to the marketplace. Airedale continues to measure and drive down Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and works hand in glove with our customers to drive to the best fit and system solution – maximised for operational capability and efficiency. Airedale by Modine prides itself on creating a complete system approach through the thermal chain. It uses intuitive controls at product, system, and site levels to drive the creative use of smart insights and data to manage scale and operations with a complete systems approach. Managing control and the system right through the chain is integral. That approach allows us to tie the system together, control, monitor, maximise, and adapt – optimising performance and efficiency and helping us to deliver our mission to engineer a cleaner, healthier world.    

This post originates from Richard Burcher’s comprehensive article, ‘Trends, Challenges, and Innovations in Data Centers‘.

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