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Responding to Climate Change 2011

Home | Regions & Cities | City of Amsterdam Energy self-sufficient data centres

Amsterdam set to design energy self-sufficient data centres

City of Amsterdam

Data Backbone Bridge: vertical wind turbines on a pedestrian bridge power nodes that process infrequently used data. Water pipes running through the bridge provide cooling and transport heat to geothermal pumps.
Data Backbone Bridge: vertical wind turbines on a pedestrian bridge power nodes that process infrequently used data. Water pipes running through the bridge provide cooling and transport heat to geothermal pumps.
Amsterdam’s climate targets
The City of Amsterdam has created multiple programmes to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2025 (compared to 1990 levels). The list includes moving towards electric transport (10,000 e-cars by 2015), energy conservation (e.g. through agreements with public housing corporations), wind energy (270MW by 2025) and district heating (100,000 homes by 2025).

With the world increasingly hooked on computers and digital data, the number of data centres has grown exponentially, and so has their electricity use. If greenhouse gas emissions have to go down, data processing and storage must become drastically less dependent on energy.

The City of Amsterdam, one of the world’s hottest data hubs, is running with this and wants to cut carbon emissions by 40% in 2025 (compared to 1990). To get there, the City has called on its vibrant IT sector, specifically creating a public-private consortium, Green-IT consortium, to reconcile IT innovation with ultra-serious efforts to curb climate change.

Until today, energy efficiency hardly made the priority list when companies built or expanded data processing and storage. New data centres popped up everywhere, simply plugged into the electricity grid and the sector’s energy use grew exponentially. In the Amsterdam metropolitan area, power consumption by data centres grew 20-fold between 1996 and 2010.

Relocating processing power

Including industry leaders like Cisco, DELL, IBM, HP, Symantec and Microsoft, the Green-IT consortium has recently adopted the OZZO project, initiated by IT entrepreneur Frank Bertram, as one of its flagship projects. The project is dedicated to building an energy self-sufficient data centre.

OZZO’s approach starts with energy, not data. It uses IT’s growing ability to dynamically transfer computing power over a grid, moving processing to wherever renewable energy can be generated and excess heat reused.

According to OZZO, current state-of-the-art technologies and creative insights will enable them to design and build data hubs which are energy-neutral. The project will open the world’s first Energy Self-Sufficient data centre in 2015.

OZZO plans to pull this off by:

1. Combining all current best practices to create highly efficient
centres and nodes;
2. Placing the centres on intersections of three types of grids: data,
electricity and thermal energy;
3. Allocating data processing tasks intelligently and dynamically so grids
work together to optimise energy use.

Combining current technologies

Most power used in current centres is not spent on processing or storing data. Instead, it is used for cooling, lighting and power conversion. Ultimately, most of this literally dissipates as hot air.

OZZO plans to make data processing much more efficient by doing away with wasteful hardware. It will hook up nodes to renewable energy generators (such as wind turbines, solar panels or biofuel installations) and switch from air-based cooling to water cooling. This last point enables the heat generated by processors and hard disks to be stored underground or fed into district heating systems. An estimated 50% of energy used by a node could be recycled in this way.

The OZZO project is busy working on initial designs. Early sketches suggest energy-neutral data nodes could come in many forms, shapes and sizes, dependent on local IT demand and energy options. If OZZO succeeds, then these designs will help Amsterdam meet its ambitious goal of dramatically reducing its computing energy need.

City of Amsterdam logoCity of Amsterdam

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