Data Centre Designers Aim for Zero Carbon Emissions

 Data Centre Designers Aim for Zero Carbon Emissions

Strategic Directions has designed a geothermal powered data centre with zero carbon emissions and is also involved in designing a family of world class, energy efficient data centres powered by alternate energy sources and technologies, including wind, solar, biomass and hydro.  Acknowledged as one of the heaviest industrial users of power, data centres need to utilise alternative energy and energy efficiency.

In Ken Hickson’s book “The ABC of Carbon”, he noted the big role played by data centres. “It has long been suspected that the IT (Information Technology) industry has been a major contributor of CO2 emissions. Gartner — a company that acts as analyst and advisor to the industry — announced in April 2007 that the IT industry produces 2% of global CO2 emissions, placing it on a par with the aviation industry.”

Last month, Ken visited the POLARIS Date Centre, reputedly one of the the best designed centres in the world, and saw for himself the trouble the designers and managers have gone to to make it work in the most energy efficient way possible. He inspected for himself the very secure and heavy energy using centre and talked first hand to Strategic Directions’ Mike Andrea and Dave Robinson.

 A leading Queensland ICT Services company established in 2003 – Strategic Directions – is gaining international acclaim as a design authority of world class data centres.

Tenants of its POLARIS Data Centre at Springfield SE Qld, include the Queensland Government, NEC Japan, Suncorp Bank, Bank of Queensland and British Gases.

POLARIS incorporates several “green” initiatives and Director Mike Andrea presented a paper on its unique design, at the AFCOM International Data Centre Conference in Nashville, USA in March.

In addition, Strategic Directions has designed a geothermal powered data centre (with zero carbon emissions) for Queensland based ASX Company Geodynamics – and is also involved in designing a family of world class, energy efficient data centres powered by alternate energy sources and technologies, including wind, solar, biomass and hydro. Already acknowledged as one of the heaviest industrial users of power – the design of energy efficient, alternate energy data centres for the future is gaining the attention of Governments and Organisations around the globe.

With Data Centres already acknowledged as one of the heaviest industrial consumers of power around the world – the design of energy efficient, alternate energy data centres for the future is gaining the attention of Governments and Organisations around the globe, and these facilities will be a critical part of the international business communities’ drive to move to renewable energy power production and a reduction in carbon emissions.

How does City Development & Green IT complement each other?

Here’s what Mike Andrea, CIO, Springfield Land Corporation has to say:

The unique opportunity to create and deliver the ICT Master Plan for Greater Springfield (located outside of Brisbane) includes the requirement to merge city development and energy efficient information technology (IT) demands.

While many organisations look solely at the choice of IT product and system, such as a server or desktop computer, and how efficient they are, or how much power they consume, we consider the overall impact on the building on a 24 hour basis.

One simple method of reducing energy consumption by computers is to turn them off when not in use – particularly over night and during weekends. This method might be acceptable for desktops and laptop computers, but it is not viable for servers that run the email system, and corporate applications that might be accessed after hours.

It is these ‘high availability’ email and application servers that run 24×7 that can lead to a buildings core electrical and cooling systems to also run 24×7. This is very inefficient, and means the true energy consumption is much higher than what the servers use.

At Springfield, office buildings are designed and built for people, and dedicated data centres are designed and built for high availability computers.

Through large-scale, purpose-built data centres such as the Polaris Data Centre, significant levels of power and cooling efficiencies can be delivered for high availability IT systems.

This allows high green-star office buildings such as Springfield Tower to be constructed with the ability to be ‘turned off’ each night and weekend.

The same philosophy is being applied to commercial, education and health buildings being planned for Parkside, Technology Park, Education City and Health City, which will see development in Greater Springfield deliver a Green IT city.

White Paper: Green Goals

Read this extract from a White Paper written by David Robinson, who is Vice- President of the recently formed AFCOM Brisbane Chapter, and Executive General Manager of Strategic Directions Group, a vendor independent company offering ICT master planning and strategic advice to federal, state and local government agencies and commercial organisations. The company is also the design authority of the Polaris Data Centre in Queensland and has undertaken other federal, state and commercial data centre engagements around the country:

Most of the press surrounding data centres these days tends to be very negative and can leave the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. At first glance, the outlook is gloomy with not a lot of positives for the future!

It is true that the global challenges facing data centres are daunting. No matter how you look at it there are no easy solutions:

• Power usage is the number one problem facing new and existing facilities – along with the resulting impact on carbon footprint.

• Cooling runs a close second, caused by the increasing power densities at rack level.

• Unprecedented focus on ‘green’. Sustainable regulation is coming; energy efficiency will eventually become law; carbon emissions and efficiency reporting; energy sources; LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design); green building rating systems; US Green Building Council (USGBC); the control and disposal of hazardous substances; and legacy inefficient electrical equipment are all considerations in the great green debate.

• Data centre consolidation is occurring across servers, storage and data centre sites. However, the resulting impact on the data centre is increasing densities and reliance on primary and secondary data centres. Do the business cases for consolidation include the increased costs that may be incurred in the data centre and is the organisation aware of the increased management complexity, increased business risk and the impact of downtime in the data centre?

• High availability is no longer the preserve of mission critical applications (airlines, banks etc). Businesses generally can no longer afford to be without ICT operations. Many organisations are now demanding at least Tier 3 data centre facilities.

• Data centre monitoring, reporting, metrics and efficiency are the keys to future best practice. Airflow distribution, temperature control and energy metering are paramount. Efficiency and utilisation is becoming just as important as availability.

• Expertise shortage is a growing problem and will only get worse. IT managers will need to be aware of and manage energy usage and cost. They must also become familiar with the facilities management (mechanical and electrical systems) aspects of data centre operation.

• Energy in general is currently a non-renewable resource. Distribution is a problem in some areas; power failures may increase; energy costs will rise; energy surcharges will be applied; DC power usage is also being considered.

• Shortage of suitable facilities is an international problem. Commercial building costs are increasing by 10% annually.

Mechanical and electrical systems account for 82% of most data centre infrastructure costs. Site selection is critically important – the sphere of influence (or impact) of a disaster is key to selecting primary, secondary and disaster recovery sites.

However, there is currently no green rating for data centres. Any such rating system should, however, cover the carbon footprint of the facility – irrespective of the levels of efficiency delivered by the IT and mechanical and electrical systems. Arguably, a 1MW data centre that is supplied solely by non-renewable energy sources should have a lower rating than a 10MW facility supplied by 100% renewable energy. The challenge for business is to consider more than simply vendor’s claims around green products and how efficient they are. Ultimately they all use power – it’s where the power comes from that may finally determine how green a data centre is. It has been said that the only thing green about data centres is the colour of money – perhaps it should be the colour of source energy.

To sum up, the global data centre industry continues to face many challenges – but through adversity there are positives emerging that will help develop a new era of data centre design, planning and operation. The truly global nature of the issues means that there are many smart people and organisations working to address current issues.

IT dependent organisations, which is almost every organisation, should be forward planning data centre space and capacity requirements up to three years in advance. Similarly, awareness of how much archive data is impacting current primary and secondary data centres, and the resulting market pressure around ‘green’ data centres, carbon footprint/renewable energy, and what it might mean to the business is paramount.


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