12

I stumbled upon https://www.climateneutraldatacentre.net/ after thinking about my company's carbon footprint.

I know this is a very complex topic, and not just as trivial as where the energy comes from for the data-centers, but I cannot find any data-centers that are claiming any carbon offsetting or neutrality.

Has anyone seen an environmentally friendly data-center?

5
  • It would be helpful to know more about your concerns; are you only worried about the impact of your own company's processing-jobs, or do you simply wish to avoid subsidizing a 'dirty' cloud-provider entirely? What kind of processing-jobs will your company be running? Can they be interrupted or are they 24h? Would you potentially be buying enough capacity from a provider to ask them to use greener practices, or will you be just an average customer with an average-sized bill? Do you have the resources to house your own servers and lobby the state/local government for cleaner power in your area? – Seldom 'Where's Monica' Needy Jun 14 at 0:51
  • Our bills are fairly average, we're a mid-sized company. We're looking at the company holistically and doing what we can so we can be happy within ourselves that we are doing everything we can to be environmentally responsible. So.. yes, we don't want to pay for a cloud provider who is doing nothing to improve their impact on the world. As one of the posts below pointed to.. switch: cdn.switch.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/… We're with AWS currently, and they are both overpriced and doing nothing to improve their impact on the world. – John Jun 14 at 7:53
  • It does not deserve an answer, but I wanted to say that, given the typical renewal of IT hardware (3 years), and the very energy-intensive processes to create this kind of equipment, runtime energy barely scratches the surface of the issue. – spectras Jun 14 at 18:35
  • @spectras at least Dell claims a much less pessimistic picture about the size relationship of production and runtime footprint (admitted, they only estimate CO2e). – anx Jun 14 at 20:27
  • @anx it is great that they develop those tools. However this specific one has a caveat: this relationship is actually an input to the algorithm rather than an output. Which is logical since it cannot know the runtime footprint, which entirely depends on where the hardware is deployed and how it is powered. For all they know, the runtime net footprint could be 0. – spectras Jun 14 at 21:43
23

Data centres do produce a lot of waste heat. It much depends on the climate zone whether this heat is any helpful elsewhere. During the winters in e.g. here in Finland it is possible to reduce the power used for heating buildings by recycling the waste heat from data centres.

Telia and the energy company Helen have agreed on the utilisation of heat produced in a data centre. According to the plans, waste heat collected from Telia’s modern data centre in Pitäjänmäki will be transmitted into the district heating network for distribution to homes and properties in Helsinki as from June 2022. In future, the data centre can provide heat for the homes of more than 20,000 Helsinki residents.

I am not affiliated with Telia or Helen; this project just seems like a rather promising example.

8

My secondary datacenter is Switch SuperNap in Las Vegas.

The datacenter owns its own solar farms in Nevada and promotes that the power source is 100% Green.

See: https://www.switch.com/sustainability/
and https://www.switch.com/switch-announces-rob-roys-gigawatt-nevada-largest-solar-project-united-states/

1
  • 5
    Even the red paint on the backup diesel is photoshopped into green ;) I have seen "green power" mean very different things across the world, can you add a few words / a link locating it on a scale from "accounting scheme that assigns all the green energy to the green customers" to "possibly impacting energy production"? – anx Jun 12 at 13:22
4

No, because one particular data centre can only be part of the puzzle, never be environmentally friendly just by itself.

A single location can only:

  1. optimize how much extra waste heat they produce, and how to reclaim some of that and
  2. promise to somehow make up for less environmentally friendly resources spent.

You, in how your manage your systems across multiple locations, can do so much more more than that.

Imagine two data centres, 400km apart, both preferentially powered by wind turbines. Which one is more environmentally friendly? The answer lies in the wind: Today, the one with useable winds nearby operates on a lower environmental footprint.

The most environmentally friendly computer is one never produced and the second best is the one never turned on, so if you do turn one on, make sure you allow your workload to be executed wherever sustainable energy production&use is easiest to attain right now.

Shortcut: execute regular-yet-not-time-critical in the cheapest place fulfilling your requirements. We are starting to see automation for that to become reasonably achievable at least within the big cloud providers.

Over time, energy production dynamics are more directly exposed to energy buyers, and we can expect that to be echoed in CPU spot price sooner or later. And as more and more environmental costs become visible to end customers, anyone who can distribute his processing needs can also make use of this trend, "simply" by allowing price decisions influence infrastructure choices.

This works as soon as sustainable energy is at least on regular occasion cheaper than fossil sources (in many places, that already happened) and keep working at least until we solved that mass energy storage challenge (which appears to be hard).

TL;DR: invest in provider-agnostic preemption & auto-scaling automation

5
  • Bear in mind that this also means that you're building CPUs and datacentres that are sitting around doing nothing until cheap power is available; i.e. building more than is necessary. It might be preferable to invest in energy transmission or storage. These are questions more for datacentre and grid operators than customers, though. – SomeoneSomewhereSupportsMonica Jun 13 at 12:50
  • Oh I expect that to remain inevitable, with and without sustainable runtime energy. No such thing as only producing the silicon we need: We will always want burstable performance meaning large swaths of chips waiting for work at preferably very low power states. However, moving from "idling at 5%" to more strictly alternating between "at capacity" and "off" could make that part more efficient, too. – anx Jun 13 at 13:00
  • You’re right if sustainable energy sources become cheaper than fossil fuels. We can hope that’ll happen in the future, but we should also push our governments to stop subsidizing oil, coal, and gas and to start levying carbon taxes that’ll reflect the tire cost of using those fuels. – Caleb Jun 13 at 20:50
  • @Caleb Are you checking the numbers I am checking? I am checking non-dispatchable generation for the European continental grid. And I am seeing wind & pv absolutely dominating - in certain regions during certain intervals. Meaning exposing these dynamics to customers should already today allow for significant impact. – anx Jun 14 at 1:54
  • 1
    @anx Glad to hear it! Here in the US, the outlook seems less positive. Renewable energy is certainly growing here, but use of natural gas isn't going away. The US Dept. of Energy projects that 42% of energy in the US will come from renewables by 2050. I hope that we can do better than that by increasing the cost of emitting carbon. eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=46676 – Caleb Jun 14 at 4:23
1

There are several data centers which run on energy 100% from renewable sources. This is usually confirmed by an appropriate certificate. One example here.

100% of the electricity used in the DC2 comes from renewable energy sources (RES). These include wind, biomass (e.g. from farming and particularly straw) and photovoltaics, as attested to by a certificate of the Registry of Guarantees of Origin.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.