Cooler data centers help take the heat off electric bills
The cooling of data centers can cover up to 40% of their total energy consumption. Photo credits: © Yentafern, Shutterstock
From streaming movies or games to sharing photos on Instagram to the increasing use of “intelligent” devices and the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, the amount of data processed is escalating. As a result, the energy consumption of data centers in the European Union (EU) is expected to increase from 2.7% of electricity demand in 2018 to 3.2% in 2030.
The cooling of data centers can cover up to 40% of their total energy consumption. “Cooling a data center is a big issue,” says Xudong Zhao, a professor of engineering at the University of Hull, UK. “The data center generates a lot of heat that … has to be continuously dissipated,” he said.
While building data centers in cold environments like the Arctic Circle or the ocean can be a solution, energy efficient technologies are also needed to cool thousands of centers in warmer climates.
Prof. Zhao is the coordinator of a project called DEW-COOL-4-CDC, which has developed an air conditioning system that uses between 60 and 90% less electricity than a standard air conditioning system. The technology works by sucking hot, dry air generated by the data center and passing it over water, which then evaporates in the heat and leaves the air cooler.
Conventional air cooling systems use condensers, compressors and evaporators, all of which are very energy intensive, explains Prof. Zhao. The technology is in the pilot phase, but once it hits the market and is produced on a large scale, it should cost about as much as traditional air conditioning, he says.
Share the burden
Another way to reduce power consumption is to closely monitor the functioning of the servers in data centers, says Çağatay Yilmaz, coordinator of ECO-Qube, another project to develop energy-efficient cooling solutions for data centers. For example, if only two servers are doing all of the work in a room full of servers, distributing the load across them all reduces the need for cooling, says Yilmaz.
One way to reduce power consumption is to closely monitor the functioning of the servers in data centers. Photo credits: © William E. Fehr, Shutterstock
Small data centers are easy to monitor and manage this way – and they have the potential to cut energy consumption by around 20%, says Yilmaz, innovation manager at Lande Rack Cabinet, an Istanbul-based company.
Another possibility that ECO-Qube is researching is the integration of data centers in a residential or office building. In this way, excess heat from the server in the building and its water supply can be used. “The waste heat can be collected [from] the servers and use it as an additional heating system for your building, for your showers, to generate electricity, ”says Yilmaz.
The project is testing this in a research and innovation building in Switzerland.
In the meantime, the rapid volume of mobile data and the development of AI technologies are increasing the demand for data centers.
Widespread lockdowns and increased homeworking since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have also increased the demand for digital infrastructure, says JLL, an international real estate services company that works with data centers. The demand for data centers in Europe’s major cities is expected to rise by a third in 2021, JLL announced in March.
The EU is considering introducing rules to curb its energy consumption as data consumption increases. For the time being, some data center operators have signed a pact to become climate neutral by 2030. They want to improve energy efficiency, switch to clean energy sources and explore ways to reuse excess heat.
All of these are important steps because all data-hungry technologies come at a price – even streaming a movie on HD TVs at home, says Yilmaz. “The price is the energy consumption.”
How Europe Could Reduce Its Cooling Footprint with Chilled Water Provided by Horizon: The EU Research & Innovation Magazine
Quote: Cooler Data Centers Help Cool Electric Bills (2021, August 18), accessed August 18, 2021 from https://techxplore.com/news/2021-08-cooler-centers-electric-bills.html
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