Why data centers need green power now

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Data centers use impressive amounts of electricity every year, which is why some would prefer that they turn to green power as their source.

June 20, 20197 mins
Why Data Centers Need Green Power Now

While it can be argued that everyone needs green power, you could also say that data centers need green power just a little bit more.

Organizations cannot function without using data centers: those magical, intimidating and vital places that house an entity's IT operations and equipment. Data centers use impressive amounts of electricity, which is why some would prefer that they turn to green power as their source. As businesses and individuals increasingly rely on cloud-based services, more data centers - where everything we send into the cloud actually goes - will be needed.

Even if consumers don't necessary think about them all that much, data centers keep entities in every industry humming. But as those so-called "factories of the digital age" store, process and distribute data, they emit a fair amount of heat. To prevent overheating (and potential failure) of critically important equipment, data centers must be cooled. Electrical power is needed to help all of those servers function, and then even more energy is needed to cool them off.

That continual heating-cooling loop requires a lot of resources. On a global basis, data centers use about 3% of the world's electricity, according to Forbes. When that power source comes from fossil fuels and nonrenewable resources, the environmental impact of all of that energy used by data centers can be significant. Yale Environment 360 reported that data centers generate as much carbon dioxide as the airline industry does.

Why switch to green power?

Over time, more resource-efficient data centers have been developed and put into service. Yet, even as newer generation data centers replace older, less environmentally friendly ones, demand for data centers keeps growing - and so does the need for electricity to power them.

One way to reduce the environmental impact of data centers is by using renewable energy rather than traditional power sources. Renewable power provides an alternative to the often-fluctuating pricing of more conventional fuels and, of course, offers environmental benefits not gleaned from the use of fossil fuels.

Barriers to using renewable energy at data centers

Even as an entity seeks to make its own data centers more environmentally sustainable, the reality is that most organizations actually use third-party data centers. To put it simply, many organizations are customers of data centers. Via a mechanism referred to as colocation services, the data center supplies the physical facility, power and security for a customer's servers.

Those colocation customers seeking to reduce the carbon footprint associated with their use of third-party data centers would usually do so by buying carbon offsets or credits for renewable energy. Increasingly, though, entities not only seek to make their own operations more environmentally tenable, but also those of their suppliers. Yet, because of how reporting requirements had been established, entities that chose greener third-party data centers would not glean reporting benefits for doing so.

A collaborative solution enhancing green power benefits

Seeking to resolve this dilemma, Iron Mountain® worked collaboratively with customers, nonprofits and a group of companies looking to enhance the use of renewable energy at data centers. Together, they developed a new protocol called the Future of Internet Power's Requirements for Supplier-Procured Renewable Energy. This protocol helps data center customers get even more benefits when their third-party data center providers use alternative power sources.

The first company to introduce a service based on that protocol, Iron Mountain® now offers Green Power Pass, a data center renewable energy reporting solution that provides customers with an annual certificate of attestation, demonstrating that 100% of the power they use at Iron Mountain® data centers is from renewable sources. Iron Mountain® also provides its Green Power Pass customers with details about the sources and amounts of different types of renewable energy used at the Iron Mountain® data centers those customers use.

Customers get both reporting benefits and some peace of mind about the enhanced sustainability of their third-party data centers. It's a win both for the environment and for data center customers.