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November 19, 2015

How 100% renewable powered data centres will make colos more social

Analysis: Can excess heat become the next big selling point for colos?

By Joao Lima

Data centres powered by 100% renewable energy are already a reality. Big players like Google, Amazon and colo Equinix, are all on course to go totally green when it comes to power and cooling.

At DCD Europe 2015, in London, a group of industry experts from Operational Intelligence,
Yandex, The Green Grid and GreenIT Amsterdam gathered to discuss if renewable energy will ever make it to the wider industry.

Vasiliki Georgiadou, project manager at GreenIT Amsterdam, said: "I do not believe 100% is achievable, but by the end of the day data centres are not located in the middle of the desert.

"They are located in cities, next to people. Providers should play around with the grid they have there.

"Let the energy companies do their job with renewable wind farms and other sources of energy, and as a data centre provider focus on the data centre and what you can give back [to the local community, the grid and businesses]."

Her vision that going 100% green in not achievable was not shared by other panellists. However, challenges are setting adoption rates back.

Jack Pouchet, VP at The Green Grid, said: "[Renewable energy] is available but not viable everywhere.

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"The industry needs to look at how to make it more viable in more places. After all, you have to put your data centre where it makes financial sense, security sense and business sense, it is just the way it goes."

Viability is not the only issue. Ari Kurvi, data centre manager at Yandex, said: "I think [the hype around renewable] is it more of a branding thing. Renewable energy is quite expensive as a business model."

Pouchet countered saying that solar energy is getting cheaper, but "the question is how much you can have" brings a third issue related to renewables availability.

While viability, costs and availability might be barriers to adoption, all panellists generally agreed that the data centre industry has a role to play booth in the green market and the social community.

Georgiadou said: "At the end of the day, data centres are in the data business, not the renewable business. Data centres will have to prepare themselves."

David Cameron, director electrical engineer at Operational Intelligence, said that data centres have a strong part to play in putting renewable technology out there.

Pouchet said: "There is a lot of social pressure for us. If you look at 100MW or 500MW campus, you are not just talking about huge amounts of resources, you also talk about local community [and the impact your site has on it]."

A way data centres can help the community around them is by using heat in excess to warm houses, schools and other spaces.

Kurvi said that heat in excess is not a waste, it is a product suggesting a new business for colos.

He said: "We should be part of the community. What can you do for the community: not just IT but also power and heat.

"Heat is energy; the data centre has energy that can use to power itself but it is not using it. You can renewable your excess heat."

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