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Social Innovation

Data, a central question for energy

Data companies are setting trends for other industries to follow when it comes to cleaning up their operations.

Experts have described a “tsunami of data” heading towards us as billions of new devices come online.

The possibilities for the world to be improved by greater connectivity are vast, but the question of how we provide power to the data centres needed to support this change is tricky. Data centres, on average, use more than 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The problem is so large that researchers from Climate Home News have predicted that within 10 years 3.5% of global emissions could come from internet-connected devices.

So how does this issue get resolved? Interestingly, two of the answers involve water – not traditionally something which mixes well with electricity!

Stemming the tide of energy usage

Aruba S.p.A is the leading company in Italy for multiple internet services, including data centers. They manage over 2 million domains, more than 7 million email accounts and around 5 million customers. It’s safe to say that they handle a lot of data. To manage their energy usage, all their centres are 100% renewable energy.

Their newest centre is the largest data centre campus in Italy, and it is also a perfect example of how innovation and smart partnerships can provide sustainable solutions. In partnership with FIAMM (a Hitachi group company) Aruba chose Bergamo as their new site as it was home to both a new photovoltaic plant – also known as a solar park - and an existing hydroelectric dam. Together, these two renewable sources meet all the centre’s energy needs. The role of FIAMM was to supply battery blocks for the centre in which this energy would be stored. They are world renowned for their ability to optimise energy usage and make the best use of space. The result? A completely green solution to storing the energy that the data centre needs to both operate and grow in the future.

Microsoft goes underwater

Aruba is not alone in its efforts to clean up the data industry. Microsoft industry are making waves with their revolutionary idea for storing data. Microsoft is exploring the idea that data centres can be based on the sea floor. The benefits of having data centres underwater is twofold. Firstly, despite being as powerful as several thousand high-end consumer PCs, the data centre uses minimal energy as it’s naturally cooled, and the energy it does need can be provided by renewable tidal turbines and wave energy converters. Secondly, with more than half of the world’s population living within 120 miles of the coast, having data centres closer to people means faster and smoother internet usage.

The data world is clearly awash with innovative solutions to reducing their carbon footprint. Other industries should follow suit; the Carbon Majors Report found in 2017 that just 100 companies were responsible for 71% of global emissions. It is from such companies that innovation must come for real environmental change to be affected.