SINTEF main findings regarding data centers and sustainability 

SINTEF executed the project "Energy and Life Cycle Assessment of a data center pilot" on behalf of Green Edge Compute. This is a synopsis of the main findings.

The project's main scope was to calculate and verify the energy consumption and climate footprint of Green Edge Computes new data center in Trondheim. The researchers at SINTEF did this through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) screening. This assessment includes the embodied analysis of the building and critical infrastructures such as IT components and cooling systems. An operational analysis of the data center's energy consumption and emission footprint has also been performed.

The researchers had to establish a comparison reference to evaluate potential savings. In this analysis, comparing the results with traditional data centers is interesting. Therefore, they have constructed two references: A state- of -the art Norwegian data center and an average European data center.

The primary object of the analysis was to answer the following question:

What energy and emissions savings compared to traditional data centers can be achieved with a compact, liquid-cooled data center with waste heat utilization?

A deep dive into the findings of the report

We must distinguish between the Norwegian and European references when investigating more in-depth why GEC One is much more sustainable than its traditional counterparts. The waste heat recovery through liquid cooling is vital when comparing the Norwegian reference data center and GEC One.

The reasons why GEC One is more climate-friendly than the other Norwegian reference data center:

  • In Green Edge's concept, the surplus heat produced by the data center can be reused in district heating systems. This energy source is primarily unused in other Norwegian data centers.
  • The reused heat is planned to replace other energy sources that district heating operators use today. In this example, it is intended to replace 30 percent LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).
  • Liquid cooling enables heat recovery at high temperatures. Combined with a heat pump to raise the temperature to the district heating level, this becomes a very efficient energy recovery method.
  • In sum, this means that the energy and emission savings specifically for district heating, SINTEF, has calculated to be approximately 80% and 96% respectively.
  • The emission reduction on the district heating side makes up about 2/3 of the overall reduction calculated compared to the Norwegian reference. The data center is more energy efficient due to liquid cooling, which is less energy-demanding than air cooling, but this has little significance to the total savings.
  • The last part of the reduction (1/3) stems mainly from reduced emissions linked to the production of infrastructure, and in particular IT-related infrastructure.

The reasons why GEC One is more climate-friendly than the European reference data center:

The most significant energy savings here are because the total energy consumption in a European data center is much higher than in the Norwegian reference.

– A data center in the EU use 50% more energy to deliver the same data services and computing power compared to what we calculated for GEC One. The reference has a PUE - Power Usage Effectiveness (the ratio between total power consumption and IT-related power consumption) of 1.7, while for the GEC One, it is calculated at 1.1. The ideal is 1.0 because, in such a case, all energy consumption would go to computing power. That means a significant energy-saving potential. When you add the reuse of the waste heat for district heating, you get a total energy saving rate of 46.5 percent. Says researcher and project manager at SINTEF, Ole Marius Moen.

  • The emissions savings compared to the European data center variant are linked to the general energy consumption throughout the life cycle. The emission factor for electricity for the EU compared to Norway is more than ten times as high. This means that every kilowatt of electricity produced in a European data center emits more than ten times more CO2. That has a significant impact on the results.
  • Compared to the European reference, the district heating element and the servers will make a relatively much smaller contribution than the Norwegian one because the CO2 emissions are so much higher in the first place.

A summary of the main findings

  • The results show a savings potential for CO2 emissions close to 90% compared to the European reference and 60% to the Norwegian.
  • Compared to the reference Norwegian data center with a 2 MW capacity, the reduction constitutes over 1500 tonnes of CO2 (60%) annually.
  • Compared to the reference European data center, the reduction constitutes over 8000 tonnes of CO2 (90%) a year.
  • A Green Edge data center uses much less energy than other European and Norwegian data centers due to liquid cooling and waste heat recovery at a higher temperature with a more efficient heat pump.

The available data shows that GECs new data center can achieve significant energy and emissions savings compared to the two reference data center scenarios. 

Do you want access to the complete research report from Sintef? Download here