As the UK Government announces huge subsidies for commercial energy costs, Europe faces power rationing, and several Asian countries are revisiting nuclear power, new ideas to harness renewable energy in the data centre sector seem more pertinent than ever.
Fast-growing edge data centre supplier Edge Centres has one clever solution. Founded in Australia last year, Edge Centres calls itself the world’s first off-grid data centre company, powering its small, modular edge data centres with onsite solar energy.
Edge Centre has plans to follow up its first ten edge sites – small facilities located closer to where data is generated and used – in Australia with a further ten in other parts of Asia. The first of the new batch is already on site in Kuala Lumpur. The company is also trialling mini modules disguised as small substations, complete with graffiti and posters, in Indonesia.
Other data centre operators are harnessing solar power on a larger scale. In May, Best Wonder Business (BWB) reported that it would develop a 16MW data centre in Aragon, Spain, powered by four solar farms.
Meanwhile, in San Jose, California, Microsoft is working on plans to develop a microgrid based on renewable natural gas (RNG), basically methane from food waste facilities or agricultural operations. The idea is that two renewable natural gas generators would provide backup power to Microsoft’s data centre there.
Another creative idea gaining traction is using batteries rather than diesel generators for data centres’ UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies) and connecting them to the grid. Fluctuations in power produced can be a particular problem with renewable energy, and creating resilience like this can allow countries to deploy more significant proportions of renewables.
Telecommunications company Telia signed a deal with power supplier Fortum in January 2022. Its Helsinki data centre will be connected to the power grid to help balance fluctuations in energy supply and demand. Microsoft is setting up a similar system at its data centre site in Dublin, Ireland, which currently generates 35% of its electricity from wind farms.
Although the current global energy crisis has focused our attention on alternative energy sources, the more significant and longer-term challenge is how to slow the rate of climate change. With net zero carbon goals looming, ideas like those above are to be applauded, adopted and developed if we are to sustainably meet the energy demands of our vital data centre sector.