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Data centers are the backbone of the internet

The digital age is at the very center of economic growth and social advancement, helping communities connect and fueling growth in markets around the world. However, with prosperity comes an increasing cost to our planet.
The virtual connectivity we rely on each day is rooted in the physical world – data centers, the backbone of the internet.
Hidden from view, these facilities are what makes artificial intelligence and machine learning possible, ecommerce to flow freely, autonomous vehicles to become a reality, and information to be instantly accessible to every corner of the world.

The true cost of connectivity to our planet

However, our thirst for connectivity poses a growing threat to our natural environment – both through the power that data centers consume and the carbon produced in their construction.
In energy consumption alone, the International Energy Agency estimates that they used 460 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2022. In fact, if data centers were a country they would be the tenth largest consumer of electricity in the world, ahead of the likes of France, Saudi Arabia and the UK.
Perhaps more concerning is the fact that this figure is set to double by 2026.
There is no doubt about it – if we are to effectively balance our growing reliance on digital technology with the health of our planet we must rethink the way we design, build and operate these critical facilities.

Global demand for clean energy is reaching critical levels with existing infrastructure struggling to keep pace

Recent attempts have been made to limit the environmental impact of data centers through both improving their energy efficiency and decarbonizing the electricity grids that power them.
However, this is no longer enough. Power infrastructure is increasingly strained by rapid rises in demand for renewable energy, and greenhouse gas emissions are set to grow.

Innovative ways of thinking are needed for a net zero future

This is precisely why new approaches are essential if we are to limit the environmental impact of our reliance on digital technology.
Strategies to drive down energy demand, optimize cooling systems, harness waste heat, reuse existing structures to house facilities, embed data centers in urban areas, and co-locate facilities with renewable energy resources all have a significant role to play.
If successfully adopted, we can effectively lessen the impact of data centers on our planet and enter a truly sustainable digital age.

Sidara at the leading edge of data center innovation

Sidara’s experts from Currie & Brown and Introba have collaborated to investigate how to rapidly decarbonize the expansion of data centers and the infrastructure that supports them. In their paper – the Backbone of the Internet, they have identified priority action areas to improve the carbon footprint of facilities, and significantly impact their sustainability performance.

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