Reducing Data Centre Environmental Impact with Waterless Cooling

Simon Hamer – CTO Evolution Data Centres

Data Centres are fundamental to the functioning of the modern digital economy. They power everything from social media platforms and e-commerce sites to cloud computing and artificial intelligence. However, these facilities come with significant environmental costs and one of the most pressing challenges is the efficient cooling of IT infrastructure.

Traditional cooling systems for Data Centres have relied on water-cooled chillers, which require approximately 50,000 litres/day/MW to operate. This equates to a staggering 90 million tons of water per year for a 5MW Data Hall in a hot, tropical climate. As water scarcity becomes a more pressing global issue, these systems have an increasingly significant environmental impact.

The sustainability challenges for Data Centre operators vary dramatically by location. In some places, where water is abundant it is the most efficient means of cooling. When used responsibly, water cooling can play an important role in reducing emissions and mitigating climate change.

However, there is a balance to be struck between energy consumption and water usage. In areas that suffer from water scarcity issues, it may be necessary to trade some energy efficiency in order to conserve these important resources.

Waterless cooling technology is particularly important in developing countries that face water scarcity issues. In a recent article Adam Selipsky, the CEO of Amazon Web Services said, “In just a few years half of the world’s population is projected to live in water-stressed areas, so to ensure all people have access to water, we all need to innovate new ways to help conserve and reuse this precious resource”.

Evolution Data Centres have a focus on Southeast Asia where the climate is highly variable depending on the specific area and time of year. Generally, the region has a tropical climate with high temperatures and humidity which presents some unique challenges for Data Centre cooling.

The Data Centre industry has a proven ability to conserve resources through innovation and operational discipline, as seen in its extraordinary success in energy efficiency, which has dramatically reduced power wastage over the last 10 years. This energy efficiency revolution was a response to public pressure and was achieved in part by a standardised measurement called Power Usage Effectiveness. A similar measure, Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) has been developed by The Green Grid to measure data centre sustainability in terms of water usage and its relation to energy consumption. WUE is the ratio between the use of water in data centre systems and the energy consumption of the IT equipment.

In a recent blog article, Microsoft compared their WUE in different regions, in colder European climates they achieved a WUE of 0.1, while in Asia Pacific it was more than 16 times higher at 1.65. This dramatic difference is largely due to the much higher average ambient temperature which necessitates the need for more cooling, but it highlights the need to find different solutions that are tailored to specific regions.

Air cooled chillers require no water during normal operation which helps to achieve virtually zero Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) cooling. These chillers use integrated compressors and condensers to cool a closed water loop. But unlike more traditional water-cooled technology, this loop is only filled once, there is no evaporative cooling and therefore no new water usage. Little maintenance is required for the closed loop, simply the occasional addition of water treatment to control oxidation and bacteria growth.

Air-cooled systems eliminate the need for large quantities of on-site water storage and cooling towers, so an additional benefit is that they require less space, which reduces the carbon footprint of the building.

Evolution Data Centres’ adoption of waterless cooling systems powered by renewable energy is a practical solution to the environmental challenges posed by traditional water-cooled systems. We believe that it is essential to prioritise sustainability and invest in innovative technologies that drive energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and minimise the carbon footprint of the building itself.

About Evolution Data Centres

Headquartered in Singapore, Evolution Data Centres was founded in 2021 with the strategic vision to become the next-generation, leading pan-Asian data centre platform, delivering digital infrastructure, reliably and sustainably, into high growth markets. They deliver high performance colocation designed for hyperscale and engineered for the cloud. Their exclusive focus on emerging markets allows them to find and develop data centres in challenging locations more efficiently than traditional operators.

Registered address:
9 Raffles Place, #26-01, Singapore, 048619

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About Central Pattana PCL

Central Pattana PCL is one of the largest property developers in Thailand. The company’s portfolio includes retail, residential, and mixed-use developments, as well as hotels and office buildings. Central Pattana PCL is committed to sustainable development and has implemented various initiatives to reduce its environmental impact and promote social responsibility.

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