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Sustainability, where do we begin?

It has been a year since we launched our sustainability initiative, we have received plenty of interest from the data center industry. We have partnered with industry consultants and OEMs to try to reach for the best design and the most innovative technology. From carbon capture, renewable energy sources, generator-less facilities, fuel cells, immersion cooling, and even demand response using the data center as a fully island-able micro-grid.

The main fact is that we all want to make a change for a better world protecting our environment. However, some misconceptions need to be addressed to understand where and how we want to invest in our future.

Although sustainability is usually directly linked with energy consumption, that isn’t always the case. An inefficient data center with a high PUE can still be sustainable. Although this might not make sense it still can be sustainable.

In terms of carbon impact, to begin, it is necessary to understand the source(s) of power. If 100% of the power comes from renewable sources like wind or solar you will still be able to have a Net-Zero or Near Net-Zero data center unless you are considering the embodied energy.

If some (or most) of the energy consumption comes from non-renewable sources, you can still claim it’s a Net-Zero data center as long as you purchased the equivalent RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) to cover your data center greenhouse gas emissions.

In countries like Brazil where more than 70% of the produced energy comes from renewable sources, it is much easier to reach the sustainability goals. In the US you could look for states where the main power source comes from water. Although in locations like this you could potentially reach Net-Zero, this will not solve the sustainability problem and it’s likely that it made affect it, due to the consumption of water.

Water has been one of the best allies to significantly reduce energy consumption in data centers. For example, in dry weather environments like Arizona, evaporating water for cooling the data center is ideal, especially during the hot months. Although it does help to reach your net-zero goals, it is not sustainable because of the consumption of water.

Arizona among other states, depends on the Colorado River. Unfortunately, the Colorado River which is a primary source of water for 40 million people in seven states in the U.S. and two states in Mexico, is facing historical droughts. This issue is affecting not only the data center market but the inhabitants and the municipalities that depend on this river. This could lead to an unprecedented conundrum, where municipalities and governments will be forced to prioritize how to distribute the water supply between hydroelectric power, residential consumption, irrigation, industrial usage, and data centers.

Data center suppliers are evaluating options including a hybrid design in places like Arizona that can provide chilled water and air cooling in the same data center facility. While it might not be ideal, as a critical facility, data centers still need to rely on availability.

In conclusion, if you are looking for sustainability, apart from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water must be part of that same consideration. The first step, is to evaluate your goals by understanding the location, is it best to renovate an existing facility or build a new data center? What is the location? If it’s in a downtown urban area you do have limitations, and reaching net-zero or water positive will be highly difficult but you could still improve its energy efficiency and water usage. If you are considering building a greenfield data center or a data center campus, before looking to achieve a Net-Zero and/or water positive data center, it is important to understand the location, the available sources of power and water prior to even thinking about the design or implementing a new and/or innovative technology.

About Author:

David Eisenband is a proven leader in Business Development. David’s experience in the Critical Facilities environment began eleven years ago when he joined the EYP Mission Critical Facilities team. He worked with top-tier financial institutions, pharmaceuticals, technology industries, and top colleges and research universities. He helped attract new business including the first Data Center Co-Location within a world-renowned stock exchange. David also maintained relationships with the top real estate firms, architects, construction managers, and OEM organizations.

David built and led the Critical Facilities Service Line in Latin America for a Fortune 50 worldwide technology leader. He conducted business with “C” Level individuals and participated in steering committees related to large projects. David's experience includes Data Center projects that received “Uptime” tiered 3 & 4 certifications in the region.

David joined the Worldwide Technology Services Consulting team for this fortune 50 organization. He ultimately served as a Global Program Manager where he directed the Intellectual Property Program. This program included global strategies to bring emerging technologies to the market, resulting in business initiatives with multi-million dollar revenues.

David's experience includes managing an Energy Savings Performance and HVAC Contractor. He participated in negotiations with the Port of Miami, The Miami International Airport (MIA, and Florida’s Main Utility Company, The Florida Power & Light (FPL).

David has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the Florida International University, Chapman Graduate School of Business.

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