As the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology, the demand for colocation data centers continues to grow. These facilities house servers and other equipment that store and process large amounts of data, and as such, they consume a significant amount of energy. To reduce their carbon footprint and be more environmentally friendly, many data centers are turning to green energy sources such as wind and solar power.
While the use of green energy in data centers is a step in the right direction, it is important to consider the environmental costs associated with even these more “green” sources of power.
One major issue when a data center is considering its environmental impact is the disposal of waste from batteries used in wind and solar power systems. These batteries contain toxic chemicals and metals that can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly, and even then take long periods to decompose properly.
Wind Turbine Blades Disposal
Additionally, wind turbines have a limited lifespan – generally about 20 years – and the disposal of the turbine blades is also problematic. When the wind turbine blades are past their usable lifetime, they are typically buried in landfills, often monopolizing already scarce space. Further, the blades are made of a material similar to that found in spacecraft and do not decompose.
Operating Wind Turbines
In the operation of wind turbines, there are a few elements to consider when it comes to their environment. The first is that they require the use of propane fuel to begin operation. Once they are running, they can keep spinning with wind power, however, they require a bit of a push to start the process. This is a temporary solution, but it still consumes fossil fuels and emits greenhouse gasses.
Additionally, wind turbines can, unfortunately, harm wildlife such as birds and other airborne creatures that live in the vicinity and happen to fly into their blades. While this is not nearly the same impact as dumping chemicals into a local water source, for example, it is still an environmental impact to consider when selecting the type of green energy to power a colocation data center.
Construction of Green Energy Sources
The initial construction and maintenance of wind and solar power systems also have environmental costs. The manufacturing process of solar panels and wind turbines can be energy-intensive and involve the use of toxic chemicals. The installation and maintenance of these systems also require the use of heavy machinery, which often damages natural habitats and disrupts wildlife migration.
Making the Best Decision
While green energy sources are a step in the right direction for colocation data centers to reduce their carbon footprint, it is important to consider the totality of the environmental costs associated with these sources of power. As the overall demand for data centers continues to grow, we must find sustainable solutions that minimize negative environmental impacts. When we consider the full picture of each form of energy, we’re able to make more educated decisions and better support the environment across our industry.