With the arrival of smart energy meters and energy-efficient devices, many of us are becoming more aware of how much electricity we use on a daily basis. But as for the technology we don’t see, the data centres and hosting solutions, what can we do to make sure we’re tapping into green energy?

In this blog post we take a look at what to look for when choosing data centre solutions, to make cost-effective and environmentally sustainable choices.

What is a green data centre?

A green data centre is one that is designed around principles that minimise its impact on the environment. This is often achieved through using energy-efficient technology and renewable energy sources, as well as re-using or recycling equipment.

The green ingredients

There are three areas that green data centres typically focus on when reducing their carbon footprint and becoming environmentally sustainable. All three areas are constantly being developed and improved, to continue to deliver not only green computing power but also reducing the cost for the supplier as well as the user.

The three main green ingredients are…

1. Power

The biggest power consumer in the data centre is the UPS – the Uninterruptible Power Supply. This is the crucial, failsafe power delivery mechanism for the entire data centre environment. A traditional UPS system often runs below capacity, when in fact running at almost maximum capacity provides the highest efficiency. With the help of a modular setup, the UPS can be configured to operate at near capacity at all times – which is much more efficient. Lighting is another power aspect of the data centre, which can be addressed easily. Efficient, smart lighting with motion sensors can dramatically reduce the energy consumption for large data centres.

Many green data centres also choose to shift their overall voltage from 120/208V to 240V, which can improve power efficiency by up to 3.5% per server.

2. Cooling

Keeping the server environment at the right temperature is an important aspect of data centre efficiency. When it comes to cooling and air distribution, there are several relatively simply methods that can be used to make major improvements.One such method is hot and cool aisle design, where the hardware cabinets are positioned in alternating rows of hot air exhausts facing one way and cold air intakes facing the other. This helps to keeps the temperature at the right level without wasting energy, and it can be made even more efficient by using barriers to create containment systems to prevent the air from mixing. Even something as simple as cable management plays an important part in the efficiency of data centre cooling systems. Poor cable management often prevents the efficient air distribution under and around cabinets.

Another highly efficient method of data centre temperature management is Close Coupled cooling, where the cooling system is integrated with an individual row of racks to deliver targeted cooling. This removes all other potential obstacles, making the cool air delivery faster and much more efficient – and it also allows for varying levels of cooling depending on server types and their requirements, rather than just distributing the same amount of cooling air across the entire floor.

3. Structure

The layout of a data centre can make a noticeable difference in energy consumption. Many green data centres now use a modular design approach when building their infrastructure, which often means using contained or even pre-fabricated modules that are quick to deploy, easy to replicate and flexible to change. These modules can be designed for optimal, predictable energy usage. The location of a data centre is also well worth considering – especially when it comes to using renewable energy sources. Many green facilities choose to operate in a location where they can draw from clean energy plants, wind or solar power – or even in a location where the cold weather outside can assist in cooling the water for air conditioning. Things like advanced insulation and heat-deflecting external paint is often used to lower the temperature inside the building and reduce the cost of cooling. It’s also becoming increasingly common for data centres to use recycled water, so-called ‘grey water’, for cooling. This is a great solution for avoiding the use of fresh drinking water and instead making use of water that doesn’t need to be purified.

How to choose a green data centre

More and more companies are actively choosing data centres that provide a sustainable and energy-efficient service, as a step towards making greener supplier choices as well as to benefit from more cost-effective solutions.

So what are the hallmarks of a green data centre? Some of the certifications to look for to ensure you are making a green choice include the following:

  • ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard
  • ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard
  • US Green Building Council LEED Certifications
  • EPA Energy Star

One Beyond’ss hosting partner, Rackspace, has been awarded EPA certification and is now recognised as a leading green power user – as well as a dependable, flexible service provider. But whatever your selection criteria when choosing data centre solutions, bear in mind that green energy will only ever become more of a priority in the future and you may want to get involved with an energy-efficient provider as early as possible.