Renewable Energy for Data Centers: Here Are the Options

When most people think of data centers, they don’t think of energy waste. But the reality is that these centers rely on electricity to power things like servers, cooling systems, network devices, and different storage drives. 

While coal has been the go-to power source for data centers, many companies are interested in more long-term solutions. So what are your options for renewable energy for data centers? 

If you want to discover the answer to this question, you’re in the right article. This resource will cover everything you need to know about creating a green data center. 

Why Are Data Centers Moving Away From Fossil Fuels?

The demand for data centers has been rapidly increasing over the years. Sadly, along with it, so has the energy consumption related to these centers. One source estimated that data centers use roughly 73 billion kWh of energy each year. 

Sadly, coal and natural gas often go toward powering these data centers. Not only are these non-renewable resources getting more expensive, but they also pollute the environment with a lot of carbon. 

There are many factors in why data centers are shifting toward a green future. For one thing, after the initial investment, it can save them a lot of money in the long run. 

However, there’s also a growing trend of environmental stewardship that many clients are expecting from the businesses they work with. 

Renewable energy data centers help clients present this image. In this full guide, we discuss the full range of benefits that come with switching to a green data center. 

RECs vs. PPAs

Sadly, getting renewable energy for data centers isn’t the most straightforward process. In order to benefit directly from renewable energy, the most logical solution is onsite renewable energy. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most common option currently in use. 

The two most common options are RECs and PPAs, both of which have flaws. First, there are RECs or renewable energy certificates. Remember that the power data centers get from a grid say nothing about its origins. 

So when a company purchases a REC, it’s a guarantee that they’re matching their current electricity consumption with a renewable energy source. However, RECs fall short in that they don’t prove the energy was consumed and the additional renewable energy capacity wasn’t built. 

Power purchase agreements are different in that they’re a direct line between the consumer and the supplier of renewable energy. With this type of contract, renewable energy will be delivered for a certain period at a fixed price. 

What Are the Different Onsite Renewable Energy Options for Data Centers?

While RECs and PPAs remain popular, installing renewable energy sources onsite at the data center is the most effective way to decarbonize the energy grid. So what are your options when it comes to renewable energy sources? 

According to the EIA, there are five renewable energy sources: biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar. Of these five, solar, wind, and geothermal are currently in use powering data centers. Let’s take a closer look at them. 

Related: Data Centers

Photovoltaic system solar photo

Solar Energy

The advantage of solar energy for data centers is that it’s widely available and affordable. The price of solar panels has only been going doing, and that’s expected to continue. 

The drawback is that it relies on sunshine to power the data center. So, if you live in an area that’s frequently overcast, you’re going to need a backup option.

Wind Energy

Wind energy for data centers is quite similar to solar. Advances have made it much more viable, especially if you live in the wind belt of the country. 

The problem is that wind turbines are often located away from populated areas. As such, you will likely need to invest a significant portion of your money into transmission lines. 

Want to discover the top locations in the United States for building a data center? Read this guide, where we discuss our picks. 

Geothermal Energy 

Geothermal energy isn’t used much for data centers, but hopefully, that will change soon. It’s reliable and consistent, and it can be set up nearly anywhere in the United States. 

The biggest hurdle is the initial cost of the plant itself. But after that, it’s one of the most affordable forms of renewable energy. 

Related: What Are Data Center Power Whips (PDUs)?

How to Transition to Renewable Energy for Your Data Center

There are two main ways you can transition your data center to renewable energy. The first way is by retrofitting your current data center with an onsite renewable energy source like solar or geothermal. 

The problem with this solution is that it requires a lot of perfect conditions from your current data center. For example, if your data center isn’t located in a spot with good sunlight or a viable geothermal source, it might not be viable. 

Alternatively, you can work with a technology planning company to find the perfect location for a new data center. This option is more expensive, but it’s the best way to get reliable onsite energy. If neither of these options is viable, you can consider making upgrades to your current data center. 

For example, environmental monitoring of your data center can make your center more environmentally efficient. This isn’t as productive as switching to renewable energy, but it’s a good small step in the right direction. 

Renewable energy doesn’t need to be a science fiction dream. Find out the approach technology groups like C&C Technology are taking to make a green future a reality. 

Related: Data Center Cable Plants Testing & Troubleshooting

Windmills clouds fog wind power photo

The Importance of Renewable Energy for Data Centers

We hope this guide helped you learn about your different options regarding renewable energy for data centers. As you can see, installing onsite sources by your center is the most effective way to encourage a shift to renewable energy. 

But what should you do if you don’t have an onsite data center to power? One solution is to work with companies prioritizing this type of environmental commitment. 
In this guide, we go over the top ten data centers that you should consider partnering with. These companies deliver top-notch service and a commitment to a green future.

Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Josh Mahan

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