Strategies for improving the environmental impact of DX
2020/12/07 Digital Journal
From one perspective, digital transformation can have a positive impact upon the environment. According to commentator Séverine Trouillet (of Dassault Systèmes): “By reducing reliance on travel and paper-based evidence, and increasing their ability to collaborate virtually, companies are effectively reducing their carbon footprint.”
On the other hand, one of the side-effects of going digital is the environmental impact. However, storing digital data requires considerable power and resources, the activity of processing and analyzing such data more so. in terms of the greatest use of power, much of the energy consumed by datacentres worldwide is used for cooling. This cooling requires billions of gallons of water, though, when water stress is a rising climate-risk factor. In other cases, cloud companies and datacentre operators are putting in efforts to cut their water and carbon footprints. This includes investing in renewable energy, although not all forms of renewable energy can be harnessed to scale. In time, however, it is likely that renewable technology will increase economies of scale and become attractive propositions for the private sector.
One initiative being considered by larger companies is locating data centers in the Arctic Circle, where cooler temperatures can help to offset the heat generated and natural cooling can be used to prevent data centers and the servers within from excessive over-heating. A similar project in a cooler climate is the Verne Global datacentre, which is located in Iceland.
Immersing computers in water is another option. In 2020 Microsoft launched such a prototype when the firm lowered a massive white cylinder into the water off the Orkney Islands (Scotland) as part of a project designed to create a datacentre using as little energy as possible.
Natural air cooling
A different approach is taken at Citigroup’s Frankfurt datacentre, which has been awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification. This was due to the site utilizing natural air cooling. The facility requires only 30 percent of the power that a conventional datacentre would need together with requiring only 40 percent of the heating energy. Along similar lines is Stockholm Exergi, which makes use the excess heat from its datacentre to help warm local homes. The facility itself derives its energy from hydro power.