”Telecom and IT consumes ten percent of the world’s electricity, and data centres use a large share of that. According to International Data Corporation, there will be 8.6 million data centres in the world in 2017. The combined carbon dioxide emissions from these datacenters are expected to exceed the emissions from the entire airline industry”, says Charlie Timmermann, Vice President of IT Business at Schneider Electric Sweden.

”A single data center can easily use more electricity than a mid-sized town. Unfortunately, a large part of this energy is never used, but simply released as heat into the atmosphere. We are currently building a new data center in Falun where the excess heat from the servers and IT equipment will warm the local buildings through the district heating system. The carbon dioxide emissions will be substantially lower”, says Bengt Lindström, one of the founders of EcoDC AB.

Industrial symbiosis benefits the environment

Global demand for secure, available and cost-effective data centers is on the rise – and so is the awareness of their impact on the climate. In Falun, the EcoDataCenter (EcoDC) is built with an exceptionally high performance level, both environmentally and in security standards. It will be ready for opening in the beginning of 2017, representing a new generation of data centers. The facility will consist of three buildings, all in all 25 000 square meters. The buildings will be certified according to the international environmental standard LEED Platinum. Sedum (flowering plants) on the roofs will cool the buildings throughout the summer.

”The data center is situated right next to the power and heating plant and the facilities can benefit from each other”, says Bengt Lindström. ”It is a symbiosis, in the sense that excess heat from the cooling of servers and IT equipment goes to the power and heating plant where the energy is used, eventually being distributed to the houses connected to the district heating system. Meanwhile, excess steam from the local electricity plant will run the machines cooling the data center.

The climate clever data center shares resources with the adjacent power and heating plant. Photo: SWECO Architects AB/Nordisk Kombination Arkitekter AB.

”This means that the industrial symbiosis can be regarded as climate positive”, Bengt says. ”The power and heating plant has sufficient capacity for most of the year. During the coldest days, biodiesel and natural gas give additional contributions – but in the future, this will no longer be necessary. The excess heat we supply will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from the power plant by 1 200 tonnes every year. The electricity powering the data center comes solely from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and water power, and is close to carbon neutral. Our emissions will basically be zero, and we also reduce our neighbour’s emissions by 1 200 tonnes. So compared to the  average conventional data center in Europe – with emissions of about 3 800 tonnes annually –  our impact in total will be 5 000 tonnes less of carbon dioxide”.

Solutions provided by Schneider Electric

”Developing infrastructure solutions and intelligent control and monitoring systems for a data center aiming to minimize its carbon footprint has been an exciting challenge. We have experience in constructing energy efficient data centers elsewhere, but this really is a show case for environmental awareness, security, performance and economy all working together. We have strived to find sustainable solutions for the entire facility, including the cooling and electrical systems and the emergency power”, Charlie Timmermann says.

”There are a couple of data centers in the US that provide heating to solitary buildings, but nothing like what we are doing here. I believe we will see more of this concept in the future; the environmental opportunity is simply too good to pass up”, says Bengt Lindström.

The article was published in Januari 2016