Future of Grid Greening
As renewable and low-carbon energy becomes more prevalent, the sustainability of the electrical grid is improving over time. Our focus is on the continuing improvement of the grid’s greenhouse gas intensity and water intensity. Understanding these trends means that we need to build our data centers for the grid of tomorrow, rather than that of yesterday.
The ongoing improvement in grid carbon intensity means we should avoid building data centers that rely on combustion for primary operation (such as natural gas-fired heaters and chillers). Even if there are some savings today, our data centers are built to last. Electrical heating and cooling will serve us well into the future, allowing us to take advantage of the greening grid.
The generation of electricity for the grid using thermoelectric power plants (such as natural gas, oil, coal, and nuclear plants) consumes water. However, newer thermoelectric power plants are consuming less water, and most renewable technologies consume no water. With the reduction of water consumption in electrical generation over time, we should avoid building data centers today that rely on evaporating water for cooling. Even if there is some overall net water savings gained from current water cooling technology over the water used by grid electrical generation in some regions, locking our cooling infrastructure into a dependence on large amounts of water means that we can’t take advantage of these future grid improvements, leading to higher water use in the long run.
Even with market-based carbon reduction instruments like RECs and VPPAs, the location-based emission factor of the grid is still an important aspect of greenhouse gas inventories. As a Strategic Partner we provide the carbon intensity of each of our data centers to give our customers the information needed to choose locations that help meet their sustainability goals.