The carbon footprint of a data center is the amount of carbon emitted from the total amount of electricity used by the facility. It represents a data center’s dependence on fossil fuels and its potential environmental impact. Geographical location and the local electricity mix are strong determining factors of a data center’s carbon footprint.
Fossil fuels account for most of the world’s energy supply with oil and coal being the most popular fuel types. The carbon emissions from fossil fuels are harmful to the environment as they absorb infrared radiation and trap heat in the atmosphere. However, fossil fuels are still widely used today as they are convenient and well-established energy sources.
To determine a data center’s carbon footprint, modern Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software can be used to automatically calculate and trend the carbon footprint based on the data center’s actual power consumption.
Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE) is a metric used to measure data center sustainability from a carbon footprint perspective. It is the ratio of the total carbon emissions caused by total data center energy consumption to the energy consumption of IT equipment.
The formula to calculate CUE is:
CUE = CO2 Emissions Caused by Total Data Center Energy / IT Equipment Energy
Key Factors of a Data Center’s Carbon Footprint
Data center carbon footprint has a direct correlation to data center energy consumption as the amount of power consumed by the data center is an indicator of the amount of fossil fuels potentially used by the facility. Renewable energy, such as hydroelectricity and nuclear energy displaces fossil fuel generation when possible, but they are not always the most available or cost-effective solutions. Some of the key factors that affect data center carbon footprint include:
- Location. Weather variables such as temperature and humidity have a significant influence on the amount of energy required to cool a data center. For example, data center in a geographical location with hot weather will consume more energy as the cooling systems work harder to maintain moderate temperature levels. Conversely, a data center located in a cool climate will be able to leverage free cooling some or all of the time rather than relying on mechanical cooling. Also, the local source of power generation will have a huge impact on the data center’s carbon footprint as different countries have different energy usage practices. For instance, in the U.S., oil, gas, and coal comprise around 71% of the energy generation while in France, around 80% of the energy is generated by nuclear energy sources.
- IT load. The amount of energy IT equipment such as servers, routers, and storage devices consumes directly correlates to a data center’s carbon footprint. The higher the load, the more energy required to run the facility, and therefore the higher the carbon footprint.
- Electrical efficiency. Traditionally, data centers have oversized physical infrastructure to support the IT load, which has a very negative impact on the overall data center efficiency and carbon footprint. This infrastructure design creates a large margin for error in terms of estimating data center capacity and serves to ensure the data center can support current and future demand. However, oversizing results in underutilization of capacity, which means the equipment is consuming energy but not doing much work. Some other factors that can cause electrical efficiency to fluctuate is the broad design of the data center and the deployment of specific technologies such as chillers and economizers.
Reduce Your Data Center Carbon Footprint with DCIM Software
Calculating the carbon footprint for an entire facility can be tedious and difficult to keep up with on a regular basis. Also, it can be difficult to determine what areas of the data center are contributing most to the carbon emissions of the facility and whether or not progress is being made over a period of time. However, DCIM software collects, trends, and reports on data so that data center managers can see their carbon footprint by location, set a target, and track their performance over time. DCIM software allows you to measure energy consumption at every connection point of the power path within a facility including rack PDUs, floor PDUs, branch circuits, and uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs). Some key benefits of DCIM software that can help monitor and manage a facility’s carbon footprint include:
- Complete power and environment management. Readings from meters and sensors can be transformed into actionable insights by trending and forecasting power and environment metrics. This allows managers to understand where the data center currently stands and what the future looks like. This feature also measures energy savings to allow for the collection of energy rebates and carbon credits.
- Zero-configuration energy analytics. Instead of having to calculate carbon footprint or Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) on your own, DCIM software takes the data and conducts the calculations automatically. This data is then translated into real-time charts and reports that allow managers to measure, compare, and improve energy efficiency.
- Integration with enterprise sustainability systems. Data centers face governmental regulations, corporate sustainability initiatives, and customer demand to reduce their carbon footprint due to the large amount of energy the industry consumes in relation to the world’s total energy supply. Data center managers must comply with their sustainability goals and initiatives. To help with this process, DCIM software feeds the data center carbon footprint information to the organization’s enterprise sustainability system to improve their reporting.
- Cooling system efficiency. Data center cooling systems consume a majority of the facility’s energy supply, so improving the efficiency of the cooling system will decrease overall energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions. DCIM software collects and reports on data from environmental sensors which helps avoid wasteful overcooling while ensuring compliance with ASHRAE temperature and humidity recommendations. It also helps project how much energy can be saved by increasing temperature set point.
- Virtualization and consolidation. Virtualization and consolidation help maximize the utilization of data center resources. With DCIM software, data center managers can easily identify ghost servers and power hogs that can be decommissioned, replaced, or virtualized.
- Drive more efficient behavior. Customer bill back reports encourage internal and external customers to be follow energy efficiency best practices. By charging them for the energy their equipment consumes, they will be directly impacted by their inefficiencies and incentivized to reduce their energy consumption.
Want to see how Sunbird’s world-leading DCIM solution can help you reduce your data center carbon footprint? Get your free test drive now!