Sustainability transformation defines a new energy landscape for data centres

Schneider Electric
Wednesday, 01 May, 2024

Sustainability transformation defines a new energy landscape for data centres

In the realm of technology and digital transformation, data centres stand as critical infrastructures, powering the backbone of the internet, cloud computing, and the Edge. Yet, with great power comes great responsibility, especially in the context of sustainability and energy management. These facilities are among the largest consumers of energy worldwide; however, there lies a vast potential within them to redefine their energy consumption patterns and, in doing so, level-up their business operations.

“Optimising the journey towards sustainability in data centres encompasses adoption of renewable energy, distributed energy resources (DERs), strategic establishment in regional areas, and innovative use of technology, including artificial intelligence. This is all to foster energy independence, and thereby operational resilience and efficiency,” said Joe Craparotta, Vice President, IT Business, Pacific Zone at Schneider Electric. 

This shift aligns with the global energy transition towards renewables across all markets and positions data centres as strong leaders in sustainable business practices. Several important factors contribute to this.

Electrification is pivotal to the energy transition and the foundation of our new energy landscape

Electrification has emerged strongly as a pivotal strategy in the energy transition for data centres committed to sustainable practices. It readily and steadily facilitates the shift from reliance on fossil fuels to the renewable sources, playing a critical role in mitigating the environmental footprint of these essential technological infrastructures without sacrificing resilience and reliability.

“By embracing electrification powered by renewables, data centres can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and partake in a global movement towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” said Craparotta.

Distributed energy resources and microgrids: a game changer

Embracing DERs and microgrids signifies a transformative step towards enhancing sustainability and energy resilience within data centre operations.

They empower data centres to produce their own electricity, often leveraging renewable sources, which serves to diminish their dependence on traditional energy grids and notably curtail their carbon emissions. Microgrids, by their design, afford data centres heightened resilience and adaptability, providing a reliable energy supply even in the event of grid failures.

“Being strategic with implementing DERs, especially microgrids, to facilitate seamless integration into existing infrastructures, heralds a new era in which data centres can achieve greater energy autonomy. In doing so, they are participating in the global transition towards a more sustainable and efficient energy ecosystem,” added Craparotta.

The benefits of establishing data centres in regional areas and importance of aligning with the country’s renewables investment strategy

Having data centres in regional locales offers a myriad of sustainability advantages in capitalising on the natural and economic resources of these areas. These locations typically provide more direct access to renewable energy sources and the investment in these energy sources will accelerate in the short term. It is very important that the energy and data centre sectors collaborate to ensure the energy transition and data centre expansion are fully leveraged. The ambient conditions of certain regional areas, particularly those with naturally cooler climates, significantly minimise the reliance on energy-intensive cooling systems, enhancing energy efficiency.

Establishing data centres in less densely populated regions helps distribute technological infrastructure more evenly across the landscape, promoting technological accessibility and economic growth outside of traditional urban centres.

“Data centre decentralisation reduces environmental impact associated with energy consumption and stimulates regional economies and communities, contributing to sustainable development that extends beyond the data centre’s operational boundaries,” said Craparotta.

The role of AI and machine learning in sustainable operations

In a newer evolution of data centre operations, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are an emerging cornerstone of enhanced sustainability.

Through sophisticated algorithms, AI and ML can forecast demand surges, enabling real-time adjustments to cooling systems and optimising power distribution. By analysing data patterns, these technologies pre-emptively identify potential malfunctions, allowing for timely interventions that prevent downtime and ensure continuous, efficient service in their contribution to advanced predictive maintenance strategies.

Integrating AI with ML into data centre infrastructures exemplifies a profound shift towards smarter, more resilient, and environmentally conscious operations, marking significant progress in sustainable energy management. The rise of AI has spurred notable transformations and complexities in data centre design and operation, with data centre operators working to swiftly construct and operate energy-stable facilities that are both energy-efficient and scalable.

Responding to the anticipated trajectory of AI adoption, Schneider Electric is leveraging its expertise in data centre infrastructure with NVIDIA’s advanced AI technologies to introduce the first publicly available AI data centre reference designs. These designs are set to redefine the benchmarks for AI deployment and operation within data centre ecosystems, marking a significant milestone in the industry’s evolution.

Addressing the evolving demands of AI workloads, the reference designs will offer a robust framework for implementing NVIDIA’s accelerated computing platform within data centres, while optimising performance, scalability, and overall sustainability. Partners, engineers, and data centre leaders can use these reference designs for existing data centre rooms that must support new deployments of high-density AI servers and new data centre builds that are fully optimised for a liquid-cooled AI cluster.

Leveraging innovation for sustainable transformation

Electrification supported by digitalisation using advanced technologies is the paramount commitment to innovative energy solutions. The operational efficiency gains translate to economic and environmental benefits that exemplify a forward-thinking approach in the shift towards a more sustainable and efficient operating environment in our new energy landscape.

“In the pursuit of sustainability, data centres are turning to groundbreaking technologies and methodologies that redefine energy efficiency and environmental impact. Commitment to innovation marks a significant stride establishing new industry norms for energy management and sustainability, urging continuous adaptation in the face of a rapidly changing energy landscape. The new energy landscape in which we are operating is being brought about by a shift in the way we consume, control, and produce energy, leveraging technologies,” said Craparotta.

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