Data Centre Initiative Underway

data centre

RenewIT, a three-year EU project to investigate how datacentres can be designed and operated to make more efficient use of renewable energy, is now underway.

“Currently, only a minority of European datacentres derive energy from renewable sources. Of those that do, the motivation is usually to gain positive publicity or curry favour with regulators rather than for purely commercial reasons,” said Andrew Donoghue of 451 Research and project spokesperson.

The RenewIT project, co-funded by the EU with a budget of 3.6m Euros ($4.8m), will develop tools and research that will help datacentre operators develop a more compelling business case for using on-site sources of renewable energy – such as solar, wind and biomass – and renewable cooling including outside air cooling and sea water cooling.

“The main roadblocks to using renewable energy to power datacentres are the perceived costs and the lack of tools to help operators make decisions about renewable energy. This project aims to overcome some of these obstacles by designing tools to evaluate the environmental performance and the share of renewable energy sources in the emerging concept of Net Zero Energy datacentres,” added Dr. Jaume Salom of IREC and RenewIT project co-ordinator.

The RenewIT project will focus on five main outcomes:

The RenewIT Tool: This will be a web-based planning tool to help datacentre owners, operators and design organisations understand the economic, energy and sustainability related costs of building a facility that uses a high-proportion of on-site or grid renewable energy.

Workload management and scheduling: RenewIT consortium partner, Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, will lead efforts in this area, developing algorithms for scheduling workloads within a facility, or between facilities using a monitoring and control platform engineered by Loccioni Group. It will build on existing research about the best relationships between performance and energy consumption and moving workloads across time zones to chase cheaper or greener power.

Develop concepts for integration in datacentres: The team will quantify the benefits of various energy concepts. These concepts will use a holistic approach that integrates various solutions:

– Renewable heat sources (biomass, solar thermal, geothermal)

– Renewable power generation (wind, solar, photovoltaic)

– Renewable cooling (fresh/free air cooling, water, snow, sky radiation)

– Energy storage (daily or seasonal)

– Heat-pumps to increase the temperature of waste heat from datacentres

– Heat re-use and interaction with district heating and cooling systems

– Solar cooling.

Validation of tools with real datacentres: The project will establish a validation process in close collaboration with eight datacentres across Europe to exchange continuous feedback with the technical developers. Based on existing case studies, the validation process will use live datacentres to test the robustness and the end-user applicability of the project’s technical energy concepts and the simulation software tools.

Propose new metrics and contribute to standardisation efforts: RenewIT will contribute to the establishment of a standard approach to datacentre energy evaluation, incorporating infrastructure, equipment and IT workload management and renewables. New ways of evaluating load matching – the relationship between loads, the generation of renewable energy and the grid interaction flexibility – will help operators understand how a particular technical solution can meet the needs of the datacentre and the grid.

The project will also tackle the issue of how to better integrate datacentres with smart cities infrastructure by plugging into smart grid and micro grids, as well as strategies such as redirecting waste heat from datacentres to other businesses and residential accommodation.

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