By: Patrick Flynn, Group Leader of Sustainability, IO
Data centers play an inextricable role in our everyday lives. We use data centers to access social media, pay bills online, and take out money from the ATM. Data centers also help radiologists and oncologists diagnose cancer, stave off hunger, manage traffic lights, facilitate financial markets, and keep airplanes in the sky.
Despite their tremendous value, data centers have recently come under fire for water consumption and thus its sustainability practices. The issue of sustainability – water efficiency, energy efficiency, and reducing carbon emissions – is a really important one – important to society, important to IO, and important to me personally. I agree data centers need to be more water efficient, but we also need to work to make power plants, agriculture, and production processes more water efficient. And the irony is… data centers are improving water efficiency in those sectors – water savings that can outstrip the water consumed by the data centers carrying out that work.
In fact, IO has taken data from its data centers and enabled its facilities to reduce water usage in two important ways:
1. Energy efficiency in the modular data center translates to millions of gallons of water saved
In an independent study conducted in 2012, Arizona Public Service compared the energy usage in IO’s traditional raised-floor data center in Phoenix to IO’s modular data center both housed within the same building. The study found that the modular data center reduced energy overhead needed for cooling infrastructure by up to 44 percent. Water and energy use are directly correlated, the best way to reduce water use in the data center is to reduce energy use. That’s true in the processing and storage of data in a data center just as it’s true in the energy production at a power plant, or any other industrial process. In all those cases, we use water to create cooling. Learn more about the energy-water nexus.
2. At the IO data center in Phoenix, customers can power their infrastructure with renewable energy – a huge water saver
Working with the local power utility, IO developed an innovative program that allows data center customers to buy renewable energy to power their data center. That translates into significant water savings because both solar power and wind power use significantly less water per megawatt of energy used than traditional power plants do.
We need data centers. And – we need data centers to be more water efficient (and more energy efficient), just like we need power generation and agriculture to be more efficient. For our part, IO is already hard at work on exactly that.
Patrick Flynn leads IO.Applied Intelligence & Sustainability, a team at IO that transforms data into value. He is a Professional Engineer and holds an MBA from MIT Sloan and a B.S. from Stanford University. Follow him @Flynnovate.