Data centre consumption – 'a ticking time bomb'

Data centres are one of the largest and fastest growing consumers of electricity in the modern world. In the US alone data centres consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt hours in 2013, equivalent to the entire output of 34 of the world's largest power stations.

By 2020 consumption is predicted to reach 200 billion kilowatt hours per annum costing American businesses almost $20 billion in energy bills each year. Information technology has emerged as the new target area for energy efficiency with the sector using up to 10% of the world's electricity.

More than 50% of the power consumed by data centres is directed at cooling systems which keep processors from overheating and ultimately breaking down. A Scottish based operator claim they can reduce the energy costs in data centres by up to 40%

Data centres are the backbone of the modern economy and indeed the internet although most people do not realise how critical this infrastructure is in everyday life. By 2020 there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet equivalent to 6.5 devices for each person living on the planet. One example of how critical this technology is would be the fine levied on The Royal Bank of Scotland for a data centre failure dating back to 2012 which left hundreds of thousands of customers unable to access their accounts. The bank was fined a whopping £56 million and set aside a further £170 million to reimburse customers who lost money as a result. A spokesman for the bank blamed a technical fault and admitted they would have to put right years of under investment in their IT infrastructure.

Banks are not alone in using outdated facilities. Problems are being identified on a daily basis in both public and private sector organisation with everything from telephone systems to payrolls collapsing on an all too frequent basis causing chaos and misery for thousands of people each year. Experts predict the problem will get worse before it gets better.

The UK will become the largest single market in Europe for data centres by 2020 and analysts predict this will cost the industry up to £7 billion per annum in energy alone. Disclosure of data centre energy and carbon performance metrics could be a powerful mechanism in demonstrating leadership and driving change in a sector where literally tens of millions could be saved by running systems in state of the art energy efficient facilities.

A facility running an IT load capacity of 10 megawatts with a typical network supply will consume just over 105 million kilowatt hours of electricity at a cost of £11.5 million each year. Queensway Park Data Centres estimate they can reduce energy costs by almost 40% by using renewable energy in their state of the art facility being built in Fife Scotland. Over a 10 year period this could save organisations a staggering £46 million. More efficiency will be achieved through mathematically modelling air flow patterns within data halls and thus reducing the power their cooling systems will consume. The use of 100% renewable energy alone will be a real game changer for data centre dynamics in the UK.

Queensway Park Data Centres will be one of the worlds very few facilities not fully reliant on traditional power stations. Instead it will draw renewable energy from one of Europe's largest biomass CHP plants (combined heat and power) producing 65 megawatts of electricity. The implications for reductions in carbon emissions as well as costs are enormous.

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