Energy Efficient Data Centers

CyrusOne’s Energy Efficient Data Centers

The first step toward more sustainable, energy efficient data centers is to decrease our environmental impact by increasing energy efficiency.

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The Strategy for Energy Efficiency

We have mentioned the large amount of energy used by data centers, and our goal to replace traditional sources with high-quality, additional renewable energy. However, the first step toward more sustainable, energy efficient data centers is to decrease our environmental impact by increasing energy efficiency. Our standardized energy efficient data center design incorporates efficiency at every level. The three primary sustainable design strategies we employ are:

Minimize data hall heat

Right cooling, right place, right time

Supplier partnerships

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Minimize Data Hall Heat

As a colocation data center company, much of our energy use comes from our customers’ equipment and is therefore out of our direct scope of control (i.e. we cannot specify how efficient the servers are). Our role is to ensure that our support equipment be as efficient as possible. Inefficient equipment not only wastes electricity but also produces excess waste heat which must then be cooled, thus consuming more electricity. There are several areas we focus on to minimize data hall heat:

High-efficiency uninterruptible power supplies (UPS): The UPSs we source generate little waste heat and operate efficiently even while operating at 50% of maximum capacity, so the data center doesn’t have to run at full capacity for peak efficiency.

Ultrasonic humidification: Instead of using heat or pressurized water to produce water vapor for humidification, our ultrasonic humidification systems maintain the necessary humidity using only 7% of the energy of more traditional electric steam humidifiers, all without adding heat to the data hall.

LED lighting: Older lighting technology converts more of its electricity into heat than into light, but modern LED lighting gives us the double dividend of less data hall heat and less wasted electricity. Coupled with occupancy sensors, our LEDs deliver lighting only where and when it’s needed.

Right Cooling, Right Place, Right Time

Because colocation data halls host a variety of customers running a variety of servers, they must be built to be flexible and remain efficient at a wide range of capacities. This is especially noticeable when a facility is first starting up and customers have yet to finish their server installations. Older cooling technologies had to be run at full capacity regardless of the actual need for cooling, resulting in overproduction and waste. Our modern, energy efficient data centers use a variety of technologies to deliver the right cooling to the right place at the right time, regardless of capacity. Those technologies include:

Building management systems: Using intelligent systems and sensor networks, the data center predicts the need for cooling and adjusts chiller output, air handling, and other factors to meet customer needs with minimal electricity use.

Economizers: Also called “free cooling” systems, economizers use low outdoor ambient air temperatures to generate chilling when the weather is right, using roughly 1/7 of the electricity required by standard chillers. Economizers are installed in facilities where the local climate provides efficient free cooling.

High-efficiency chillers: The air-cooled chillers that we source are selected for efficiency, flexibility, and reliability. We generally design for water-free cooling from the ground up, which maximizes the efficiency of our systems and avoids dependence on water. In our standard design, water is used only in a closed-loop system to remove heat from the data hall, but no water is consumed in the process.

Throttling: Our systems use controllable variable frequency drives (VFDs) to power air handlers and pumps, meaning they don’t have to be “all on” or “all off.” The cooling distribution equipment is operated at precisely the right level needed for optimal cooling without wasting energy.

Partnering with customers: We work with customers to provide optimal cooling to their servers and achieve good hot aisle/cold aisle separation and containment. We also optimize airflow directed to customer equipment to best match its power draw.

Liquid-to-chip cooling ready: This system allows even higher efficiency for customers who want to use various liquid cooling methods (in-row cooling, liquid-to-cabinet, liquid-to-chip, and immersion cooling).

Supplier Partnerships

Finally, we partner with our equipment suppliers to identify new high-efficiency, green technologies and to alter equipment specs to support our particular design needs, rather than just using off-the-shelf equipment when it’s an imperfect fit.