By Lindsey Bruner, Vice President, Project Development
Finding the right place to build a data center is not as simple as simply choosing a wide band of land connected to a fiber optic network and a power grid.
Certain needs are implicit in the process. The basic requirements for the location of the data center raise some questions, such as connectivity? Is it ecologically clean? How much power is available and how long will it take to deliver it? Does the location match where the target customers want to be? Is it in a floodplain? ? Is it far from things that could explode?
It can be like putting together a puzzle without having the reference box. And on top of all that, our sites now also have to meet our own rigorous sustainability standards as we strive to meet our goal of being carbon-free by 2040. But what makes a project “sustainable” data center?
While finding the right size location in the right location is necessary for a successful data center, here are three considerations we use to make sustainability an important part of our project development process:
1) Power – Data centers are important powerful users. And once we have one or more target sites, our first questions are for the utility. We look at power in two ways: electrical capacity, which is the utility’s ability to meet the site’s total energy needs, and the energy supply, where the actual electrical installation will use daily once it is operational. .
A site which otherwise meets all the criteria loses its appeal if the electrical capacity is not sufficient for the type of installation we want to put on the site, in particular if the time to obtain electricity does not correspond. not when we need it assured power. In addition, it is often difficult to work with utilities and municipalities to balance the power needs of a data center with the other power needs of the region. It’s also important to understand not only what capacity is deliverable today, but also the utility’s process and timing for adding infrastructure – like substations – and securing production resources to power those substations.
This question feeds into our second and key to our 2040 plan: what type (s) of electricity does this utility buy and provide? Once a data center is operational, it begins to attract electrons for power. After all, we need electricity to enable hyperscalers to deliver their services or businesses to efficiently assemble their critical computing resources. But the type of electrons is an important consideration. CyrusOne’s carbon-free target by 2040 signifies a commitment to operate our facilities with green electrons wherever possible. The differences in utility markets mean that different strategies are applied to provide us with these green electrons.
Generally speaking, a deregulated market can offer more flexibility in the supply of energy by the end-user customer, while a regulated market leaves this choice in the hands of the utility. More and more, utilities are offering some kind of green or renewable energy option.
In regulated markets, green tariffs are a way forward. The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines them as optional programs offered by utilities and approved by state utility commissions that allow larger commercial and industrial customers to purchase bundled renewable electricity from of a specific project thanks to a special rate. For example, our London I and London II data centers now operate with a 100% renewable energy tariff, which shifts the annual energy consumption equivalent to 52,000 households to zero-emission sources.
In a deregulated market, we have even more ways to go and stay green. In addition to choosing a green plan from a utility, we can also enter into our own direct agreement to purchase power from a wind, solar or other installation that supports additionality or bringing new ones to market. projects.
For example, CyrusOne recently purchased 67 MW of grid-delivered renewable energy and equivalent renewable energy credits generated by Enel Green Power’s 284 MW Azure Sky solar and storage project in Haskell County, Texas. This purchase is equivalent to meeting 100% of the power needs of our data center in Allen, TX, and nearly 70% of the power needs of our data center in Carrollton, TX. Additionally, we will be removing project-specific renewable attributes of solar power and Azure Sky storage that match 100% of our Dallas headquarters power consumption.
2) water – One of the reasons data centers use so much power is that all the IT equipment inside generates a lot of heat (imagine your laptop sitting on your lap), and that heat needs to be removed or attenuated – that is, cooled.
CyrusOne uses an air cooler with integrated compressor and condenser to cool a closed loop of water. This chilled water is used to remove heat from the data room, but none is evaporated in the process. The water loop is filled once during construction and remains filled for the life of the installation. This closed-loop technology prevents re-use of water in operations and the release of concentrated pollutants into the sewerage system.
Because they are an integral part of the design of our data center, water and sanitation services do not play such an important role in our site selection process. While others have to make water improvements, it is a burden that we do not have to place on our municipal partners because of our innovative and sustainable design. It also gives us the opportunity to support initiatives, such as the provision of municipal hot water heating networks, which we are currently exploring at our Amsterdam campus.
3) Design incentives and requirements – Increasingly, we are seeing development approvals or tax incentives linked to meeting certain sustainability requirements. In a development approval scenario, our building permit or other authorization may be tied to the incorporation of sustainable design components, such as rooftop solar charging stations, for electric vehicles, or to the creation or habitat restoration through our landscaping design. Or, they may require that our design meet standards, such as LEED or BREEAM.
In our project development process, CyrusOne considers site development features that can help the building qualify for LEED designation. We will first review the criteria for some LEED levels and calculate how many points a site can earn. Although this is not a determining factor, it will be a determining factor in choosing a site, so we can help our design and construction team achieve a LEED certified project.
Even where it is not a requirement, a LEED qualified data center can add value to us or our customers beyond the benefits of efficient and sustainable design. Many states offer property or sales tax incentives to data center operators or those in a respective state who purchase computer hardware to put into data centers. These incentives can be structured in various ways. Some are tied to job creation, while others tie property tax cuts to certain amounts of investment over a certain period. Sales tax exemptions are usually the most attractive for those who buy computer equipment.
But tax incentives are also increasingly tied to certain sustainability requirements, such as building to certain LEED (or BREEAM) levels. If we can get any incentives to be green, we pick those in addition to any other incentives that may be in place to grow in these areas.
Finding a new data center location is clearly more than choosing flat land with a stable internet connection. It must take a holistic view of all development. It has to have all the implied things necessary for customers to want to be there. And for us, it has to be a site that can function in a sustainable way.