Eurofiber: big steps towards renewable data center energy

Martin Vos, Business Innovation Director,  Eurofiber

Hans den Heijer, Senior PR & Media Relations Manager, Eurofiber

Efforts to improve data center energy efficiency are ongoing, with innovations in cooling technologies, equipment consolidation, server efficiency, and the use of renewable energy sources. However, connecting data centers to renewable power sources poses various challenges, especially in the field of Power Quality.

Intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can fluctuate, depending on weather conditions and time of day, for example. This variability can lead to unstable power supply and quality issues such as frequency and voltage fluctuations, which can affect reliable operation.

What’s more, the fluctuating nature of renewable sources can introduce challenges to grid stability. This may lead to problems such as voltage dips, harmonic distortion, and transient phenomena, which can affect power quality. Other issues to consider include regulatory compliance, scalability of renewable power supply to keep up with data center expansion.

The Modular Integrated Sustainable Datacenter project

“Data Centers are often seen merely as consumers of large amounts of energy,” explains Hans den Heijer, Senior PR & Media Relations Manager, Eurofiber. “However, the purpose of those data centers workloads is often to work more efficiently and actually prevent a great deal of unnecessary mobility and energy usage. Analyzing vast amounts of data across offers a considerable contribution to the energy transition. With our digital services and solutions, we can really play a positive role.”

“This, in part, resulted in the Modular Integrated Sustainable Datacenter project, or MISD funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. Together with other project participants , we are examining several really interesting challenges and issues. What do we need all that computing power for? Do we need to store our data in big facilities close to our cities or can we break the datacenter workload down into multiple smaller modules that can be distributed countrywide? What can we do to improve the current situation, individually and collectively? How can we optimally reuse excess heat?”

“MISD aims to develop a scalable, modular data center design that integrates sustainable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies,” explains Martin Vos, Business Innovation Director,  Eurofiber. “The project addresses datacenters’ growing energy demands while minimizing their environmental impact. Objectives include improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, and leveraging renewable energy sources more effectively within data center operations.”

“The goal of MISD is development of a new modular, sustainable, and secure-by-design edge computing concept that is to be deployed in places close to end users. The guiding principle is to achieve a significant reduction in total energy consumption, from cooling to computing power and data flows. A CO2 reduction of more than 50% is set to be achieved in a validated, distributed setup in a field lab where different innovations developed in the project converge.” 

“The award of MISD funding, under the European Important Projects of Common European Interest – Cloud Infrastructure and Services (IPCEI-CIS) program, is an important step towards the cloud infrastructure of the future. Eurofiber’s role in the MISD project involves leveraging our expertise in fiber optic and data center infrastructure to contribute to the project’s objectives and helping facilitate integration of smart energy grids or renewable energy sources.”

Redistributing workloads

“An important way to maximize the energy efficiency of the infrastructure to be designed is to spread workloads within the distributed network to those places where there are surpluses of renewable energy. This requires solid fiber-optic connections. Eurofiber is contributing specific expertise in this area. Development of a staging lab and a fiber-connected, geographically distributed field lab environment, and developing energy, data and compute use cases, are also part of our contribution to this project.”

“It’s interesting to explore what happens when you divide a big Data Center up into a number of smaller edge containers situated closer to users and use cases. Are we able to directly feed in renewable power into such modules? Can the batteries which are an existing part of the data center design double as tools to stabilize the grid locally? Once a number of containers are deployed, we would like to be able to move the compute resources and data around those modules, making it possible to adjust energy usage to availability on the grid, while also enabling a more dedicated performance profile, tailored to the customers need for different use cases.”

“To manage performance, latency, availability, and energy usage parameters a cloud orchestration layer is necessary, that can respond to the desired input and output parameters. Having proper insights in usage patterns of other power consumers in  the vicinity could add to the energy stabilizing functions of a distributed data center design. One could even introduce dynamic pricing, based on these parameters, and make energy efficiency work economically“.

Strong emphasis on sustainability

Eurofiber places a strong emphasis on sustainability as part of its business operations, aligning its efforts with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments. For example, Eurofiber has set ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2025 and aims to transition to 50% circular products by the same year. The long-term goal is to achieve 100% circularity by 2030. Eurofiber Cloud Infra is also focusing on innovations to minimize energy consumption in data centers. This includes advanced cooling systems, energy-efficient UPS systems, utilization of residual heat, cold corridors, smart lighting, and the use of sustainable materials. All Eurofiber Cloud Infra data centers run on green energy, underscoring the company’s commitment to sustainable digital infrastructure.

Modular Integrated Sustainable Datacenter project

The MISD consortium is taking the lead in European partnerships to embed sustainable applications into the foundation of the next generation of European cloud infrastructure and services. Consortium participants aim to develop a sustainable answer to the growing demand for (local) data center capacity in a more flexible way than is currently possible.

The project is scheduled to run from 2024 to 2029. Innovations resulting from the project will come together in a geographically distributed field lab. Research and development will include new liquid cooling techniques, making housing and compute more energy efficient, security by design in a distributed cloud infrastructure, parameters for the climate impact of cloud usage and its reduction, and data centers as support for a more flexible energy infrastructure. The consortium is developing a website to keep stakeholders and interested parties informed of the project’s progress. In addition, consortium participants will proactively share their knowledge gained during the project, for example during events, workshops, knowledge sessions and webinars.

MISD consortium participants

  • Asperitas
  • BetterBe
  • Deerns
  • Eurofiber
  • NBIP (National Internet Providers Management Organization)
  • TNO
  • University of Twente

Some considerations regarding Power Quality and renewable energy in data centers

Variability of renewable sources can make it challenging to ensure the consistent and reliable power supply that data centers require for uninterrupted operation. They can introduce power quality issues, which can be harmful to the sensitive equipment in data centers. The intermittent and variable output of renewable sources like wind and solar can cause voltage levels and frequency to fluctuate. Transient events such as voltage sags (dips) and swells as well as rapid voltage variations (‘flicker’) can occur more frequently. Systems, particularly those using inverters to convert DC to AC, can introduce harmonic currents into the power system. Renewable sources might not always be able to provide a stable, balanced load, especially in data centers with high and fluctuating power demands.

In situations where the data center is capable of operating in a grid-isolated mode (intentionally or unintentionally) powered by renewable sources, there’s a risk of ‘islanding’. This can pose challenges in managing power quality and ensuring the safety of equipment and personnel. Continuously monitoring and managing power quality is essential to ensure the reliability and performance of data centers. This requires advanced systems, technologies, and expertise.

Jorlan Peeters, Managing Director, HyTEPS


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