A team of Swedish entrepreneurs have partnered with a local energy company to build a revolutionary data centre that runs entirely on a mix of solar, wind, and hydro power, plus wood chip and sawdust waste. And not only does it take no power from the grid or fossil fuels, it also gives back - converting the heat generated by all those hard-working servers into energy to warm nearby homes.
Construction begins next year, and the facility will be located in the town of Falun, just north of Stockholm. "We are able to reuse all of the energy, all year long," one of the team, Jan Fahlén, from local energy company Falu Power and Water, told Adele Peters at Fast Company. And because cooling the servers down can account for as much as half a data centre’s energy needs, the building has been designed to convert this heat energy into a cooling system.
According to a recent report, data centres currently consume 1.5 to 2 percent of all global electricity, and this is growing at a rate of 12 percent a year. The situation is so bad, the owners of some of the biggest data centres in the world, Google and Facebook, are being pressured to up their renewable game, and even the US Ministry of Defence has declared war on data centre emissions.
But, so far, no one has come up with a plan as potentially awesome as Sweden's so-called EcoDataCentre. In a sense, it’s more than just carbon-negative, because it doesn’t just avoid partaking in fossil fuel-guzzling, it helps other facilities cut back on their guzzling activities too.
"As the servers run, they generate heat that would normally be wasted," says Peters at Fast Company. "The heat is hooked up to the town's district heating system, sending hot water to warm up local homes in the winter. In the summer, the system can supply district cooling, running air conditioning that would otherwise use electricity."
"This allows us to offer lower costs for our customers, even though it is a high-performance data centre," Fahlén told her, adding that it will be up to 25 percent cheaper to run than similar top-level data centres.
While the task of hooking this data centre up to the local grid will be relatively easy - it’s going to be built right next to an existing power plant - it would be amazing if technology companies in other parts of the world could figure out how to follow suit. One thing’s for sure, we’re not going to slow down on our data requirements any time soon, so we need to figure out how to make it less awful for the environment, and ultimately for ourselves.
Source: Fast Company