CyrusOne Will Achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2040 With a Multi-Faceted Approach
November 5, 2020
Global warming promises potentially catastrophic consequences if we don’t decrease carbon emissions. While all businesses and industries share responsibility, data centers and their operators have a particular obligation to sustainability and stewardship given how they concentrate computing power under one roof. One expert predicts the data center industry could use up to 20% of the world’s energy and be the globe’s largest energy user by 2025.
That’s why CyrusOne has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040 through reducing and offsetting carbon emissions across its global data center portfolio. As a colocation provider, we provide power and cooling to our customers’ equipment. Our carbon neutral target covers both the power we consume to provide cooling as well as the power we deliver to our customers’ equipment. To achieve this goal, CyrusOne will focus on acquiring renewable energy to power data centers, designing energy efficient new buildings and upgrading existing facilities.
Less Heat to Cool
While our customers manage the efficiency of their servers, for us efficiency begins with facility design, and the biggest impacts come from improving support equipment efficiency inside data halls. Inefficient equipment wastes electricity and produces excess heat, and it needs to be cooled with methods that require even more electricity or water. CyrusOne focuses on three areas to make improvements: uninterruptable power supplies (UPS), ultrasonic humidification and LED lighting.
- High-efficiency uninterruptible power supplies (UPS): The UPSs we source generate little waste heat and operate efficiently even while operating at 50% 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 capacity. 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 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 design for water-free cooling from the ground-up, maximizing the efficiency of our systems and avoiding dependence on water. Water is used in only 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 just 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 to achieve good hot aisle/cold aisle separation and containment. We also optimize the 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).
The Latest and Greatest
It’s important for us to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies for delivering efficient data hall services. To do this we partner with our equipment suppliers to identify new high-efficiency 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. Like much of sustainability, we can’t do it alone, but with the right partners we can get it done.
Make Mine Renewable
Purchasing renewables is and will continue to be a key component of our carbon neutrality efforts. We have leveraged and will continue to leverage green power as we expand into new markets. Already, our London and Amsterdam facilities run completely on green tariffs and our new facility in Dublin will also run on 100% renewable energy. In addition to green power in Europe, we are evaluating offerings in the United States to find projects that add additional renewable power to the grid while reducing pricing risk to our customers.
As we build new facilities, and as existing energy contracts come to an end, we will evaluate additional renewable offerings. Our considerations during evaluation of renewable energy opportunities include meeting customer needs, achieving competitive pricing, reducing carbon intensity, and reducing exposure to market volatility. To help us consider the effect of renewables on carbon emissions, we also account for the relative carbon intensity of different grids where we operate to understand the carbon reduction per MWh from switching to renewables.
Headway Without Water
While our big target is to reduce carbon, one way some companies do this is to shift their cooling burden from consuming electricity to consuming water. While consuming water can reduce carbon from some kinds of electricity, in many regions this is trading one problem for another. We pledge to meet our carbon goals without consuming water for cooling at our new facilities.
Our Sustainability Report expands on our carbon neutrality efforts and more, showing measurable results that confirm our commitment to progress as we achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. We see our sustainability efforts as a long journey. We began by measuring our current state and setting goals, we invested in and deployed solutions, and we have accelerated our efforts – all deliberately and with notable transparency. Now fully committed, we prepare to chart a course for zero.
– Kyle Myers
Director of Environmental Health, Safety & Sustainability