Bloomberg Businessweek posted an article this month about the seeming decline in popularity for Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) among large companies in the United States. Citing Walmart, Safeway, Hilton, and others, the piece claims RECs have little power to spur new renewable development and don’t really eliminate the carbon emissions that companies claim.
We’ve covered the What and Why of RECs here on the blog before. Basically, each REC stands as a record of one megawatt-hour of renewable energy added to the general pool traveling the electric grid. When a company or individual buys an REC, they claim credit for that green energy. The income stream from REC purchases travels through brokers and on to renewable energy development companies, who use the extra funds for new projects like wind farms or solar arrays.
Where RECs get tricky is when companies use them as part of their claims to be carbon-neutral, or as strictly a marketing trick. The Bloomberg piece makes this clear when it reports a Hilton VP as stating RECs weren’t “having a major marketing impact.”
There are plenty of factors when sizing up colocation providers: available space, power configurations, efficiency, support services, networking, etc. But one aspect makes all the difference, with ripple effects on many of these other factors: location. Depending on your infrastructure demands, you might need a data center nearby for low latencies or far away for disaster recovery; in either case, the location can also impact power pricing, energy efficiency, and connectivity.
You’re probably familiar with “swamp cooling” at home, especially if you live in the dry West like we do. Swamp cooling is evaporative cooling, a more efficient method of air conditioning than vapor compression or absorption refrigeration, the latter relying on refrigerant that contributes to ozone depletion, in addition to consuming more energy. Free cooling has made inroads in the data center and is common in many new builds and retrofits as a method of saving energy and water alike, leading to its nickname of “free cooling”.
Innovating the data center industry means we have to pay attention to all the great things other companies are doing to improve operations and increase energy efficiency. There are lot of organizations pursuing greener IT, and this semi-monthly roundup of green data center stories will keep you in the loop with the latest.
This month we have a look inside Apple's solar farms, ways to improve data center cooling, how to tame your inefficient “accidental” data center in the back room of company HQ, and more. Here are August's top 4 green data center stories so far:
As seminal punk band NOFX once sang, “Electricity / All we need to live today / A gift for man to throw away.” The data center industry has a love-hate relationship with electricity. It’s obviously a crucial resource that enables the productivity and innovation gains of cloud and large-scale computing, but it comes from polluting power plants, it’s expensive, and it’s delivered from an increasingly unreliable power grid in the United States. Data centers are also using more and more electricity every day.
New developments in electric generation and delivery as well as data center design innovations could help develop the much-hyped smart grid, bringing cost savings, increased reliability, and cleaner power generation. How can data centers and the electric grid work together to create the future of electricity?
On July 30th, 2014, we welcomed Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, customers, friends, and family to our brand new data center and headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The event included speeches from President Shawn Mills and Governor Mead, a flag raising by local scout troop 221, beer from New Belgium, snacks, and private VIP tours. The new 35,000 square foot building is already 1/4 full and will launch with 5MW capacity, expandable to 8MW. It is four times larger than the original facility.
“We started with just one customer,” said CEO Shawn Mills, “Today, we're very excited to say we count over 350 customers from around the world, including five countries and 26 states.”
Networkworld pushed out an article this week asking, “What Happened to Green IT?” The piece claims that interest and effort alike have dwindled when it comes to green energy, efficiency, and ethically sourced procurement. While it does concede that green IT hasn’t completely vanished, with sustainability reports now commonplace among enterprises and manufacturers still chasing more efficient equipment, the overall tone is that green IT must be resurrected by “passionate IT professionals” to keep it alive.
The article also does give a few suggestions to kick up the momentum of green initiatives, including the inevitable citing of Google, Facebook, and Apple, who along with Microsoft are truly forging a new path for corporate sustainability and green IT alike. But the article misses the boat when it hinges on the retirement of CompTIA’s Green IT certification; or The Green IT Review stating that “most organizations are struggling with or ignoring” green IT. There are plenty of counterexamples, from SMBs like Green House Data to mandates imposed by western governments.
As historic drought spreads in California, environmentalists are turning their attention towards potable water. While this isn’t an entirely new subject for conservation—we’re intimately familiar with water shortages here in Colorado and Wyoming—accelerating buzz and knowledge about climate change is making water shortages a hot topic, and data centers aren’t about to escape unscathed.
An investigative report in the Financial Times is shedding some light on the current water situation in industries around the world. The report includes a look at Google’s data centers, with Joe Kava, Google’s head of data center operations, quoted as saying that water is the “big elephant in the room” for data center companies.
A lot of the focus in the data center energy efficiency world is placed on cooling, and rightly so: cooling servers can consume as much as 37% of a well-designed data center, according to Emerson. But there are opportunities to improve efficiency on the other side of the rack, too. The power delivery systems, including Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) and transformers, can deliver significant energy (and cost) savings.
Although they started to gain real momentum circa 2011 or so, modular and containerized data centers are still spreading their way across the industry. The two models share many similarities: ease of deployment, the ability to add more computing power more or less on demand, highly energy efficient operation, and some degree of prefabrication. Depending on the enterprise and IT needs, each has distinct advantages and disadvantages for data center design and infrastructure procurement.
Why go modular or containerized? Both models provide a standardized kit to scale out a data center piece by piece. A facility can be designed with an initial baseload for power and then built out with racks, cooling, and support equipment as needed. As more customers come on or the company grows larger, new servers and networking equipment are added to meet demand.