An essential part of any modern company is the data center. This is where their cloud processing power, computer network and of course data storage is kept. So you can imagine the problems for a business if a place like that lost power, and the lengths a company would go to ensure a steady stream of energy.
This raises an interesting question: Could data centers be powered by solar energy? The computers can’t just be turned off at night, or during cloudy days, or when the solar panels need to be repaired. That’s not to say there aren’t other ways to power a data center with green, renewable energy, but could data center energy come only from solar?
How Much Power Do Data Centers Take?
Data centers use power to both run their computers constantly and keep them from overheating. The Independent found the power needed by all data centers globally is quite a bit more than what the whole UK uses, and predict there will certainly be a constant need for more.
Colocation America says that some large data centers pull in the equivalent of a small town’s power, which can cost the facility about one-tenth of their total budget. Because data centers require so much energy, many worry they will stress the capacity of their local energy grids and cause problems for residential energy.
Data centers must have several backup sources of energy, so that any potential interruption can be instantly prevented by switching over. In the same way, we must strongly consider how multiple sources of green energy could be used for data centers going forward, especially with the ever-increasing awareness of carbon emissions caused by the traditional power suppliers.
Is Solar Power A Clean Energy Option?
Increasingly often. Techerati describes how Orange Telecom hired Engie to install solar production atop their data centers in Africa, creating an Energy As A Service (EaaS) partnership.
Data centers run by the Markley Group in Massachusetts signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for their solar needs, with the help of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMaRT) program.
Google worked with the Nevada Power Company to build their solar-powered data center in Henderson, Nevada, and also installed solar panels on their Bay View campus which they hope will provide almost half of the energy needs there and become a model for all of their data centers.
Solar power is created in a number of ways, such as converting the sun’s heat and light into usable energy with photovoltaic cells. This energy is then stored in various kinds of batteries so a facility can keep running even at night. Lifeline Data Centers also point out that many governments help the creation of solar powered data centers with tax breaks.
What Benefits Will Solar Power Provide Our Future?
The effects of using solar power for energy at the many present and future data centers is clear to see. Solar power is:
- another source of energy besides our depleting resources
- a point of pride for a company and their CSR reputation
- useful to help a site get Environmental Social Governance (ESG) recognition and Sustainability Linked Loans (SLL)
- a flat or gradually-decreasing cost compared to the upward spikes of fossil fuels
- very affordable in maintenance costs after installation, and as more solar panels are built the costs will go down
- less strain for others on their power grid
With the benefits of solar power and the growing needs for energy at data centers, the combination of solar powered data centers was always inevitable. Lower costs, better environmental effects and less problems for others in the area are all great reasons to trust solar power. More and more businesses are doing so, often with state and federal help, though the power usage by data centers may continue to grow. The question is not can we do this, but how soon!