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Data Centers Transitioning to Renewable Energy

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Jane Marsh's picture
Editor Environment.co

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

  • Member since 2020
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  • Jul 19, 2022
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Individuals and business owners are improving their information storage and distribution practices in the digital era. Engineers are advancing data center technology to support the increasing quantity of global information, and scientists are identifying ecological challenges with digitalization and data centers’ expansions.

Information storage facilities rely on significant amounts of electricity to power computers, servers, cooling systems and other appliances. Most data centers source their electricity from fossil fuels. However, the unsustainable power sources are expanding the industry’s carbon footprint and harming the environment.

The Demand for Emission-Free Electricity

Data centers produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers calculated information storage facilities will create 3.2% of global carbon emissions by 2025. Centers currently consume more electricity than England, which leads to supply challenges.

Data center operators are looking at renewable energy to expand their electricity supplies. They are also exploring how renewables may lower their utility costs. Solar is now the most affordable energy source on the market.

The demand for renewables in the data storage industry also relates to power outages. American companies lose around $150 billion each year from brownouts and blackouts. Data center operators may reduce their susceptibility to outages by installing uninterrupted power systems (UPS).

UPSs can support centers through power outages to improve data security and reduce financial losses. Connecting renewables to UPSs creates reliable and efficient backup power sources. Data center owners can transition from fossil fuel electricity to renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprints and maximize their profits.

Utilizing Tax Credits

Facility owners may adopt renewable energy systems using tax incentives. Solar, wind and geothermal power sources deliver cost-effective electricity after owners pay off their upfront costs. Purchasing and installing renewable energy systems is expensive, but tax credits can help.

The American government offers tax credits for all renewable energy systems. Individuals may access a 26% credit by purchasing clean electricity technologies before 2023 and 22% before 2024.

These incentives help data center owners install large-scale solar arrays and wind turbines to access emission-free electricity.

Finding Compatible Systems

Another way for data center owners to transition toward renewable energy is by finding a compatible system. They produce different amounts of electricity depending on environmental conditions. For example, areas with minimal vegetation are good candidates for solar, as are warmer regions with high ultraviolet (UV) indexes. Data centers in the southern parts of North America, like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, can produce significant amounts of solar energy.

Other regions are more compatible with wind power.

Data center owners should assess their compatibility with different renewable energy sources based on weather patterns and space before investing in large-scale systems.

Accessing Cost-Effective Electricity

Facility owners are also transitioning toward renewables to lower their operating costs. Some data centers are experiencing storage limitations from rising energy costs. Russia’s war on Ukraine is increasing prices because of diminishing fossil fuel supplies.

Individuals can maintain consistent utility costs by accessing renewable energy. Renewables are about 62% more cost-effective than the cheapest fossil fuels. Utilizing solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy to power data centers can improve information storage affordability.

Investing in Storage Systems

Data center owners can effectively adopt renewable energy by investing in advanced storage technologies. Most green power relies on inconsistent weather patterns, which decrease the reliability of direct energy transfers. Individuals can develop dependable energy supplies using hydrogen fuel cell batteries.

Engineers at Lavo developed long-term power storage systems using hydrogen. They connect directly to solar panels or wind turbines to collect emission-free power. They can store renewable energy as hydrogen for prolonged periods and distribute excess electricity during low production intervals.

When Will Data Centers Reach Net-Zero?

Many countries recently developed net-zero emission goals to minimize industrial pollution. Data centers are adopting renewables to help regions meet their sustainability targets. Some data storage companies like Microsoft are close to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists believe proper government incentives and regulations can help data centers achieve net-zero emissions by the next decade. Companies must transition from fossil fuel electricity to achieve global sustainability goals.

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