Streaming series and films has replaced linear television in many households. On the side, people scroll on social media, correspond by email during the day and, at the latest since the pandemic, video conferences are increasingly replacing meetings in the office.
Our digital everyday life, both professional and private, consumes vast amounts of electricity, causes CO2 and has a significant impact on the climate. Streaming for an hour on Netflix requires just as much energy as driving about seven kilometres through the city by car.
According to forecasts, data centers will emit between 200 and 250 megatons of CO2 in the future and could be responsible for a fifth of the world’s electricity demand by 2025. In addition to the now gigantic data traffic, the accompanying exponential increase in the number of data centers is putting a strain on our environment: the demand for natural resources needed to build data centers is growing.
Greener data centers must therefore contribute to a more environmentally friendly energy consumption of digitalisation in the future.
Making sensible use of waste heat
In addition to renewable energies, the use of waste heat from data centers has great potential to contribute to more sustainability. This is because the servers heat up during data center operation and therefore need to be cooled continuously. This generates heat that mostly goes to waste. However, this heat could be used to heat neighbouring office buildings, flats or greenhouses. In Sweden, this method is already used in some data centers, which feed their waste heat into the municipal district heating network.
Neighbours with permanent heat demand sought
A data center is permanently active and therefore emits heat all year round. Suitable neighbours are therefore facilities that need to be heated not only in winter, but permanently. These could be swimming pools, laundries or agricultural projects such as urban farming, for example. In order for this smart site planning to work, however, cities and municipalities must take care of permits early on and promote neighbourhood planning. In addition, the temperature of the waste heat at 30 degrees Celsius is sometimes not sufficient for heating. The solution to this could be heat pumps in the data center itself or the installation of so-called low-temperature heating systems in adjacent office and residential buildings.
Creating incentives to promote environmentally friendly development
On an international level, the European Commission wants to promote climate protection in data centers. In its strategy paper “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future”*, it outlines a roadmap for the climate neutrality of data centers by 2030. At least 100 billion euros are to be mobilised for the master plan. Joint action required at all levels against the backdrop that digitalisation is advancing and the call for sustainability is becoming louder and louder and more urgent, all levels are called upon: politics should create incentives, the municipalities should create the framework conditions and the operators of data centers and the consumers of waste heat must ensure the technical prerequisites. Only if everyone pulls together can end consumers enjoy their evening series with a clear green conscience.
Data center or IT infrastructure: Drees & Sommer offers innovative solutions from conception to operation that take into account both the growing requirements for security standards and energy efficiency as well as increased profitability expectations. Our team always responds individually to your requirements and ensures security, availability and data flows within your company or data center throughout the project.