Data centers consume a significant share of energy produced globally. With the growing demand for services, the number and scale of data centers are expected to rise further over the next few years. Given that the vast majority of data centers use non-renewable energy, this adds to the global burden of electricity consumption, which has become a major issue for governments, businesses, and policymakers. In his article for Global Newswire, Munjack (2019) argues for the use of solar power in data centers and explains whether or not this goal is achievable. The present paper will analyze the news in terms of the key components of energy management.
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The internal focus of energy management is concerned with efficiency, scope, and redundancy of energy use. Several techniques help to decrease the amount of energy used for activities in data centers, thus optimizing operations. Based on the information contained in the article, solar energy can be a powerful solution for many data centers. First of all, Munjack (2019) explains that solar energy is efficient and does not cause disruptions in regular operations.
It is also not susceptible to power outages, which can impact operations, limit business activity, and cause damage to equipment. Solar energy is also flexible in its scope: Munjack (2019) notes that solar panels can be used to power an entire data center or some of its components. Lastly, since solar energy is renewable, it would also help to eliminate redundancy and fulfill internal energy management goals.
Among external factors affecting data center operations, energy management is mostly focused on costs, losses, and green initiatives. In the article, Munjack (2019) addresses the external focus of energy management in data centers by comparing the cost of solar energy with that of regular power sources. The author shows that, as renewable energy costs do not increase over time, it can save companies thousands or even millions of dollars, therefore improving the efficiency of energy use.
This is particularly important since data centers demand more and more energy each year, which leads to steep increases in energy costs (Hintemann, 2017). Another source of expenses to consider, however, is the installation of solar panels and the implementation of a new energy source. Munjack (2019) mentions that this would be a costly initiative for any organization, although it should provide a return on investment within three to five years. The article does not address the possible losses that can result from implementing solar energy initiatives in data centers.
Green initiatives and sustainability are critical topics of interest in energy management, and the article addresses these elements in full. First of all, Munjack (2019) mentions the global ecological crisis, stating that “a recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees above preindustrial levels by 2040” (para. 1). The author also explained the role of data centers in addressing these issues, as they are among the companies generating and using high amounts of electricity.
Indeed, according to a report by Sverdlik (2016), U.S. data centers consume as much electricity as 6.4 million American households combined, and these figures are likely to increase as more data centers are established each year. Due to the share of data centers in global energy consumption, they contribute to climate change by increasing CO2 emissions. According to a study by Bilgen (2014), energy derived from fossil fuel contributes to climate change and the global ecological crisis. Thus, the issue of green energy use in data centers is an important topic among external factors in energy management.
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Based on the information above, the author provides a strong argument for using solar power as part of green initiatives. Munjack (2019) notes that renewable energy sources, including solar power, are an environmentally-friendly alternative to electricity derived from coal, oil, or natural gas. The author also contends that switching to solar power would enable data centers to remain on track with global trends since renewable energy is becoming more and more popular around the world.
For instance, the concept of smart cities involves data centers running on solar or wind power (Klingert et al., 2015). The popularization of renewable energy also means that customers who use data centers’ services are becoming more environmentally conscious, and refusing to switch to green energy might harm data centers’ relationships with clients (Munjack, 2019). The news thus relates to all of the aspects that influence the green element of energy management.
Force Field Analysis
A force field analysis is a useful business tool that provides an overview of supporting and opposing forces in the context of a particular change. In the present case, the article considers both positive and negative aspects of using solar power for data centers. On the one hand, the supporting forces for solar power are its future costs, competition, customer satisfaction, and compliance with the requirements of global sustainability efforts.
While the price of regular electricity is expected to rise continuously due to the deterioration of oil and gas resources, the prices for renewable energy and related equipment are stable and much cheaper than the first option (Munjack, 2019). In terms of competition and customer satisfaction, solar energy also provides an advantage to data centers due to the clients’ increasing environmental consciousness. It is possible that shortly, large corporations will prefer working with service providers using renewable energy (Munjack, 2019).
Lastly, global sustainability efforts also involve various rules and regulations for energy consumption. For example, the European Code of Conduct for Data Centers requires organizations to have a power usage efficiency (PUE) below 1.80 (European Commission, n.d.). While solar power enables data centers to reduce PUE to this value, it will also ensure their compliance with any future regulations targeting energy consumption and renewable energy use.
On the other hand, there are some opposing forces associated with the proposed change. The most significant opposing force is the cost of investment, as Munjack (2019) acknowledges that large data centers will face substantial expenses related to the installation of solar powers and shifting to a new energy source. Given the continuously growing demand for data center services, organizations already invest high amounts of funds into opening new facilities and thus might be critical to the idea of such an expensive project.
The second opposing force that is important in the case is that data centers might not be able to install as many panels as needed to power the entire facility and will need to supply energy from the grid. This could be problematic because high-volume renewable energy resources are usually located in remote areas, whereas data centers need to remain close to their clients, who are typically based in cities (U.S. Department of Energy, n.d.).
As a result, there are significant concerns related to the accessibility of solar power. The final opposing force is that data centers will need to establish new service supply channels or recruit new staff to monitor the panels and maintain them in a working condition. This would result in additional expenses and will take time, thus increasing the complexity of the process of shifting to a new energy source.
Power Usage Efficiency and the Evaluation of Data Centers
As other organizations consuming high amounts of electricity, data centers are the focus of continuous evaluation, both internal and internal. Internal assessment enables energy managers to ensure that the power is used effectively, whereas external assessments performed by researchers and organizations determine data centers’ compliance with regulations and their role in global sustainability.
Power usage efficiency is a significant component in the evaluation of data centers, as it shows to what extent the energy consumed by the facility is used directly for business activity (Avgerinou, Bertoldi, & Castellazzi, 2017). A high PUE means that an organization uses more energy than needed and should seek ways to improve internal energy management. A low PUE value, on the other hand, means that the vast part of the organization’s energy consumption is related to its business activity, and thus the facility is more sustainable.
Solar energy provides a way for data centers to improve their compliance with regulations regarding PUE, as it is linked with increased reported efficiency. Avgerinou et al. (2017) state that, in the Nordic countries, where renewable energy sources are widely used, the PUE values are the lowest. This is mainly because solar energy is not considered in the total energy consumption in PUE calculations (Avgerinou et al., 2017). Therefore, switching to solar energy provides facilities with an opportunity to ensure compliance with regulations and reduce their energy consumption.
Energy Consumption by Data Centers
Energy consumption by data centers is the primary topic of concern about solar power. The complexity of operations in this type of facility means that there is a variety of elements that require substantial energy to operate, including the IT equipment, facility equipment, power elements, and cooling. Based on the analysis produced by Makris (2017), half of the energy consumed by data centers is used for cooling parts, and over one-third is required for various IT equipment.
As data centers use a noticeable share of global energy, this means that energy management is tasked with reducing energy consumption without decreasing the functionality of data centers or affecting their operations. Switching to cleaner, renewable energy can assist in achieving this goal and result in the increased effectiveness of energy management in data centers.
All in all, as shown in the paper, the news about data centers’ possible switching to solar power relates to all the major components of energy management. The analysis also provides evidence that a shift to solar power would benefit data centers around the globe, despite the opposing forces involved in this change. As organizations using significant amounts of energy, data centers can assist in global environmental efforts by increasing their reliance on renewable energy. Moreover, by changing to solar power and thus improving efficiency, data centers would contribute to energy management.
Avgerinou, M., Bertoldi, P., & Castellazzi, L. (2017). Trends in data centre energy consumption under the European code of conduct for data centre energy efficiency. Energies, 10(10), 1470-1487.
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Bilgen, S. (2014). Structure and environmental impact of global energy consumption. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 38(1), 890-902.
European Commission. (n.d.). The European code of conduct for data centres.
Hintemann, R. (2017). Why and how the energy requirements of data centers are growing. Dot Magazine.
Klingert, S., Niedermeier, F., Dupont, C., Giuliani, G., Schulze, T., & de Meer, H. (2015). Renewable energy-aware data centre operations for smart cities the DC4Cities approach. In Smart Cities and Green ICT Systems (SMARTGREENS) 2015 International Conference Proceedings (pp. 1-9). Lisbon, Portugal: IEEE.
Makris, T. (2017). Measuring and analyzing energy consumption of the data center.
Munjack, L. (2019). Data centers energy consumption make a strong case for solar. Global Newswire.
Sverdlik, Y. (2016). Here’s how much energy all US data centers consume. Data Center Knowledge.
U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.). Renewable energy.