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“Double Carbon” has been proposed for two years, how to “reduce carbon” in data centers?

China Energy Storage Network News: In September 2020, my country clearly proposed the goals of “carbon peak” in 2030 and “carbon neutrality” in 2060. The “Double Carbon” strategy was officially launched.

As a high-energy-carrying industry, data centers are obliged to promote the implementation of the “double carbon” goal in the whole industry.

Policy guides industry development

data center

The development of various industries is inseparable from the guidance of policies, and the same is true for data centers. In the past two years, various policies related to data centers issued at the national level have all guided data centers to advance the process of carbon neutrality in an orderly manner.

The “Three-Year Action Plan for the Development of New Data Centers (2021-2023)” issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology proposes to focus on guiding new data centers to take an efficient, clean, intensive, and circular green and low-carbon development path; The Guiding Opinions on the Collaborative Innovation System of Big Data Centers pointed out that by 2025, data centers across the country will form an integrated pattern of infrastructure with reasonable layout and green and intensive infrastructure; the “Action Plan for Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement” issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology In 2025, the power utilization efficiency (PUE) of newly built large and ultra-large data centers will be better than 1.3…….

“Looking at the surface from the point of view”, under the guidance of the national policy, the local governments have made the requirements more detailed and specific, and put forward specific requirements for the PUE value of the data center. The Department of Industry and Information Technology of Shandong Province issued several measures on deepening reform and innovation to promote the high-quality development of the digital economy. The neutralization goal requires promoting the green and high-quality development of new infrastructure such as data centers and 5G. It is pointed out that by 2025, the average operating power utilization efficiency of data centers in the region will drop below 1.2… Various policies are too numerous to enumerate. It is promoting my country’s data centers to carry out carbon neutral work in an orderly manner.

To sum up, from a policy perspective, data center “carbon reduction” can be roughly divided into two categories:

In the “eastern region”, first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen have issued policies to further tighten policies through power cuts, land approvals, and energy ratings, optimize the industrial layout of data centers in the region, promote high-quality development, and eliminate “barbaric” data centers. grow”;

“Western regions”, such as Zhongwei, Ulanqab, and Gui’an New District, have introduced policies to encourage and guide the orderly development of data centers in the region, relying on their own geographical environment, renewable energy applications and other advantages, coupled with strong policy support , Promote the construction of green data centers.

One east and one west, through two different policy orientations, guide the data center to achieve high-quality and sustainable development locally.

Equipment consumption reduction

Under the guidance of policies, the data center industry has already begun to advance the process of carbon neutrality in an orderly manner.

From the perspective of energy consumption, the energy consumption of IT equipment accounts for more than 60%, and the energy consumption of non-IT equipment accounts for less than 40%. Among them, in the energy consumption of non-IT equipment, the energy consumption of air-conditioning equipment accounts for the largest proportion, exceeding 20%. At present, the focus of energy saving and emission reduction technologies in data centers is mainly on the cooling system.

With the maturity of liquid cooling technology, more and more liquid cooling technologies such as immersion liquid cooling, cold plate liquid cooling, and spray liquid cooling are applied in data centers. In addition to liquid cooling, with the development of technology, in recent years, data center cooling methods have become more diversified from a single traditional air-conditioning unit, and new-generation cooling methods such as indirect evaporative cooling and magnetic levitation cooling units have emerged in an endless stream. New cooling systems, even combinations of multiple cooling methods, are not uncommon in data centers. It can be seen that reducing consumption and increasing efficiency of data center refrigeration systems is the “main battlefield” for energy saving and emission reduction in data centers at this stage.

In addition to the refrigeration system, the consumption reduction and efficiency increase of the power supply and distribution system is also the focus of heated discussions in the industry at this stage. As we all know, the process of electricity transmission in the cable will generate heat and consume part of the electric energy at the same time, and “electricity” is the only indispensable source of energy for the data center, how to reduce the loss of “electricity” in the transmission process , Improving the utilization efficiency of “electricity” in the data center has also become the focus of attention in the industry.

According to the existing technology, the use of HVDC, high-voltage direct current and other technical means can effectively reduce the loss of “electricity” in the transmission process. Because the inverter process is reduced, the utilization rate of high-voltage direct current can generally reach 96.5%, or even higher .

At the same time, in the process of continuous technological development, UPS has also become a major market for data center power supply and distribution manufacturers to compete for. Huawei, Vertiv, Kehua, ABB, Schneider and other giants in the power supply and distribution industry at home and abroad have corresponding product layouts here. Efficiency exceeding 97% is already a “basic operation” in the “high-end” UPS industry. It is worth noting that at low load rates, the efficiency of data centers using modular UPS has exceeded that of high-voltage DC power supply. The author believes that from the perspective of technological development trends, high-frequency UPS is likely to become one of the optimal solutions for power supply and distribution in data centers to reduce consumption and increase efficiency.

Operating model change

In addition to “working hard” in the fields of refrigeration and power supply and distribution to achieve “carbon reduction”, in the context of technological development, there are more and more paths for data centers to achieve carbon neutrality. In the following, the author simply takes stock of several feasible paths for future data centers to achieve carbon neutrality for reference.

Energy storage + IDC

Technology generally refers to science and technology. Society is accustomed to linking science and technology together, collectively referred to as science and technology, or technology for short. In fact, the two are closely related, but also have important differences.

In fact, the two are closely related, but also have important differences. Science solves theoretical problems, and technology solves practical problems.

The application of renewable energy is one of the ways to eliminate “carbon” from the root of the data center. However, from the perspective of current technology, renewable energy is not stable. Released to power the data center can solve the shortcomings of unstable renewable energy.

On the other hand, when the energy is “too” abundant, the data center can also “export” electricity externally to complete the demand-side response to improve the stability of the power grid.

The main problem facing the operation mode of energy storage + IDC at this stage is the choice of energy storage medium. At present, the main energy storage method is electrochemical energy storage, that is, using lithium iron phosphate battery for energy storage, which is equivalent to installing an additional “charging treasure” for the data center, but the disadvantage of lithium iron phosphate battery energy storage is also obvious-unstable Strong, once caught fire, almost impossible to be extinguished.

Throughout the industry, in addition to lithium battery energy storage, the industry is also researching and developing hydrogen energy storage. Enjoy the future, with the development of technology, when the application of large-scale energy storage + IDC operation mode gradually matures, the data center can not only use energy storage to achieve its own real “zero carbon”, but also can use “external output” To achieve profitability while helping the power grid to achieve stable operation (at this stage, there are many policy documents to encourage enterprises to complete demand-side response, and use higher electricity costs as rewards).

waste heat recovery

During the operation of the data center, IT equipment will generate a large amount of waste heat. Using heat pump technology to recover and reuse the waste heat in the data center has many application cases in the data center and has a bright future. According to rough statistics, the total recoverable waste heat of data centers in northern my country is about 10GW, which can theoretically support 300 million square meters of building heating.

At present, there are also a number of data centers including Alibaba Qiandao Lake Data Center, Tencent Tianjin Data Center, China Telecom Chongqing Cloud Computing Base, GDS Beijing No. 3 Data Center, and UCloud Ulanqab Cloud Computing Center. The data center applies waste heat recovery technology to provide heat for the interior of the data center and surrounding areas.

According to the data provided by UCloud, the UCloud Ulanqab Cloud Computing Center project can recycle 78,000GJ of waste heat per year, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 7,380 tons per year, which is equivalent to planting 400,000 trees; Tencent Tianjin Data Center, according to statistics, is one of The long-term waste heat recovery project can also reduce energy consumption by 525 tons of standard coal per year, which is equivalent to reducing 1,310 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equivalent to planting 72,000 trees. It can be seen from the data that the amount of energy saving and emission reduction that can be achieved by using waste heat recovery technology is very considerable.

In addition, there are many cases of applying waste heat recovery technology in the world. As early as 2010, countries in Europe and the United States began to recycle waste heat from data centers for municipal heating, especially the Nordic countries with colder climates, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland and other countries have a complete industrial chain of waste heat recovery and utilization. They have energy-saving service companies specializing in data center waste heat recovery. For IDC companies, the sale of “waste heat” has become one of the company’s fixed sources of revenue. Taking Con Edison as an example, the waste heat generated by the company’s 1.2 MW data center can bring in more than $350,000 in annual revenue, helping the data center to share part of the operating costs.

However, there are still many problems that need to be solved urgently in the recovery of waste heat in data centers at this stage. For example, the waste heat generated by traditional data centers is generally low-grade waste heat, and the waste heat medium is gas, which is not conducive to collection; the construction cost of waste heat recovery equipment is relatively high. For data centers that are already heavy assets, the initial investment cost is high; a perfect waste heat sales system has not yet been formed.

However, the author believes that under the guidance of the new policy, with the large-scale application of liquid cooling technology and other new generation refrigeration technologies in data centers (liquid medium is better than gas for waste heat recovery), construction costs continue to be optimized, waste heat reuse scenarios As well as the iteration of waste heat recovery technology, data center waste heat recovery will promote the transformation of data center “waste heat” into “negative carbon”.

underwater data center

As mentioned earlier, data center cooling accounts for more than 20% of data center energy consumption. If the data center can be deployed underwater and use the temperature of seawater to take away the heat generated by the data center, the energy consumption of the data center will be greatly reduced, which is beneficial to the data center. The center lowers the PUE value. Not only that, data centers placed underwater can also avoid data center accidents caused by humans (according to statistics, about 70% of accidents in data centers are caused by human factors), greatly improving the stability of data centers.

Judging from existing cases, IDC service providers at home and abroad are exploring the possibility of placing data centers underwater. As early as 2014, Microsoft first proposed the concept of an underwater data center; in 2015, Microsoft passed a 105-day experiment to prove that the underwater data center was feasible; in 2018, Microsoft deployed a data center on the seabed in northern Scotland; in 2020, After two years of trial operation, Microsoft salvaged the data center and made an evaluation to conclude that the server failure rate of the underwater data center is lower than that of the traditional data center.

Domestically, Highlander was the first to propose the UDC concept, and summarized three major advantages of the submarine data center:

First, since the UDC is placed on the seabed and filled with inert gas, there is no element of fire;

Second, UDC is hidden underwater and cannot be accurately located by the outside world;

Third, through the 24-hour uninterrupted monitoring of UDC, the possibility of data center damage and infiltration can be effectively avoided.

Underwater data centers have their special advantages in terms of energy saving, emission reduction and safety. However, the underwater data center is greatly affected by geographical factors (it needs to be built near the sea). The author believes that based on the existing network infrastructure conditions, the underwater data center is only suitable for the calculation of thermal data, temperature and cold data for coastal cities. Data storage, and users with low latency requirements such as machine learning and video rendering.

The underwater data center is still in its “infancy”, and the exploration of the two major service providers in the underwater data center also provides some reference and reference for the future data center on the road to carbon neutrality.

Whether it is the application of existing energy-saving and emission-reduction technologies, or the many new data center operation models that may become mainstream in the future, there are currently two main problems to be faced.

On the one hand, technical aspects such as liquid cooling, underwater data center operation and maintenance, and energy storage need to be continuously improved, and solutions are constantly optimized, and the application in data centers is still in the stage of technological development.

On the other hand, as an industry that is relatively conservative in technology, data centers are most concerned about data security and business smoothness. For technological innovation, data centers with many successful cases need a long time to improve users’ awareness of new technologies. , “Recognition” of the new operating mode. This process of “trial and error” cannot be avoided.