In times of digitalization and data-driven business operations, data storage is indispensable. And storing that data requires a lot of energy. How do you reconcile energy-consuming data storage with that other major challenge, which is taking care of the environment? Apparently by opting for the latest generation of data centers, because the data center of the future is 100% circular.

In the past, IT was a department that simply had to work properly and, above all, not cost too much. Today this is no longer the case. Digitalization has become indispensable as modern business leaders base their decisions on data. But the efficient storage of this data often turns out to be a tricky issue. Migrating data to the cloud has an impact on the environment. However, state-of-the-art data centers offer the solution.

“First of all, a data center already brings efficiency to IT”, says Stijn Grove, Marketing Director Dutch Datacenter Association, Board Member Climate Neutral Data Center Pact. “It means less energy and space consumption than if you were to run these servers in different locations. Most data centers now operate on 100% green energy. That started with energy from hydropower from Norway. Then came windmills and solar panels. And now they are working with ‘hourly based sustainable energy’ where you can guarantee that you are using green power at any time of the day.”

Friso Haringsma, Managing Director Datacenter United: “Scale advantages of an external commercial data center can ensure that only half or even a third of resources are needed, compared to an in-house data center. Moreover, as a company you have a complete view of the sustainability parameters and efficiency.”

Heat valorization as added value for the neighborhood

A new NorthC data center recently opened in Rotterdam. It uses residual heat to provide heating to over 10,000 households in the neighborhood. The building is completely modular and runs 100% on green electricity. “A perfect example of how waste heat from the data center can be valuable”, says Stijn Grove. “I like to call it datathermy. It shows how data centers can play a role in the environment. The regulations still need to be adjusted to make this heat valorization possible, but we are moving in the right direction. Data centers can also play a role in terms of water consumption and biodiversity.”

Datacenter United also installed a heat exchanger that currently provides about 50 kW of heat for the adjacent workshop. “That is still modest but we are gradually expanding this”, says Friso Haringsma. He believes it could be even more efficient by increasing the temperature inside the data center. “But it is not obvious to work in rooms of 37 to 45 degrees Celsius. Moreover, you should always look at heat valorization in collaboration with the stakeholders, so that the elaboration is as sustainable as possible. At the moment we are all searching. Every new story comes with growing pains, but we can be certain that future data centers will be circular and valuable for the environment.”

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