Building the green data centre of the future

Keeping Singaporeans reliably connected in an increasingly digital world is a serious challenge. Equinix Singapore relies on innovative technologies to power its data centres sustainably.

Data centres have been a popular topic of discussion lately, especially with the growth of the digital economy and the renewed focus on digital transformation across practically every industry.

Not only are data centres enabling innovation across a variety of sectors and driving business growth, they are also creating digital opportunity for our communities. Local benefits from data centres include enabling digital access and growing job opportunities as businesses expand into new markets.

Singapore is a prime data centre hub in Asia; Equinix alone powers more than 855 organisations’ digital transformation with its sustainable data centers and digital services. According to a report from Frost & Sullivan, the regional data centre colocation services market is expected to expand at an estimated compound annual growth rate of 16.4 per cent between 2019 and 2026. This expansion is driven by rising investments in emerging technologies such as blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, as well as greater focus on cybersecurity and data privacy, growing reliance on hyperscale cloud service providers and overall higher Internet penetration in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, the increasing demand for data centre services, coupled with Singapore’s tropical weather, makes it more difficult to operate these services sustainably. Data centres currently use an estimated 7 per cent of Singapore’s electricity, up to an estimated 40 per cent of which goes towards cooling systems that maintain an operationally critical temperature-controlled environment.

In Singapore, power is primarily generated via natural gas – a non-renewable energy source. To minimise impact on the climate, data centre providers need to develop economically viable solutions that are aligned with local sustainability planning agendas. With its Future First sustainability strategy, global digital infrastructure company Equinix is primed to further the goals set forth in Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 (RIE2025), Smart Nation, and Green Plan 2030 frameworks.

SUPPORTING GREEN PLAN 2030

To support the Singapore Green Plan 2030, Equinix has embarked on several sustainability initiatives in Singapore, encompassing community development and environmental projects. It has also outlined a series of discussion topics for review with the Economic Development Board to build sustainability into design and construction and enhance transparency in reporting. In addition, Equinix is partnering Singapore Management University to develop a business scholarship for sustainability.

Equinix has already deployed about S$1 million to fund these initiatives, with an additional S$1 million earmarked. Equinix participates in local initiatives linked to sustainability and renewable projects, such as investigating alternative power sources and efficient energy storage. This supports the RIE2025 goal of seeking out innovative solutions and designs for sustainability while still driving economic growth.

Data centre providers in Singapore must address the quandary posed by hot weather and continue to evolve their approaches to raising the efficiency of their sites.

“Running multiple servers and storage equipment generates heat that the cooling infrastructure needs to remove,” said Ms Yee May Leong, managing director, Equinix South Asia. “To do so, the latter also needs energy – and given Singapore’s humid, tropical climate, Equinix is focused on implementing the most efficient cooling systems and operational excellence best practices to minimise the use of energy for the cooling required.”

In Singapore, Equinix’s data centres rely on innovative technologies that improve energy efficiency, generate green power and manage airflow. For example, at the newly launched SG5 data centre located at Tanjong Kling, innovative design means that hot and cold airflows are separated, so that machines are cooled more efficiently and the data centre’s energy consumption is reduced.

“Our fifth data centre in Singapore, SG5, leverages Equinix’s bespoke and novel surface cooling technology, known as the Equinix Cooling Array, to support high-density customers while reducing water and power consumption needs,” explained Ms Leong. “Combined with connection to Singapore’s recycled NEWater, SG5 is well positioned to support customer requirements from higher densities to meet their environmental and sustainability needs.”

Singapore targets to achieve 80 per cent of its buildings certified with Building and Construction Authority and Infocomm Media Development Authority (BCA-IMDA) Green Mark status by 2030, and Equinix is ahead of the game. Its earlier data centres have all received the SS 564 certification for Green Data Centres. SG1 IBX is Green Mark-certified, while SG2 and SG3 facilities are certified to Platinum status; and SG4 is certified to GoldPLUS status. SG5 recently received the BCA Green Mark Award Platinum and is on track to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Singapore is also prioritising clean energy across all sectors. Equinix has a robust history supporting the transition to renewable energy and has a long-term goal of relying on 100 per cent renewable energy for its global portfolio. Currently, Equinix sites in Singapore are covered by 100 per cent renewables and its worldwide operations achieve over 90 per cent renewable energy coverage, putting it on a clear path to being entirely climate-neutral by 2030 – the first digital infrastructure company to set this goal globally. Equinix is also looking to increase its engagement with local and regional renewable energy developers to increase the quality, locality, and additionality of its renewable energy purchases.

INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS TO DRIVE INNOVATION

Equinix works with industry partners to develop and trial innovative solutions that will shape the future of data centres and services, as well as assist its users with making headway on their carbon footprint reduction goals.

Locally, Equinix is a member of the Cooling Energy Science and Technology Singapore (CoolestSG) Consortium. Elsewhere, the Equinix Co-Innovation Facility(CIF) in Washington, D.C. is an incubator for new technologies and processes such as liquid cooling, high-density cooling, intelligent power management and on-site prime power generation.

“The expected impact of these sustainability partnerships on the broader digital ecosystem is sizable, and Equinix’s many and diverse customers are expected to benefit from the greening of their digital supply chains. The CIF is one example of how Equinix is committed to helping reduce customers’ emissions and driving data centre innovation,” said Ms Jennifer Ruch, sustainability director, Equinix.

In another collaboration, Equinix is part of the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, which is working to identify a path to clean hydrogen-enabled fuel cells. Even before hydrogen, these generators are 20 to 40 per cent more environmentally friendly than standard generators.  This partnership is also looking at the deployment of more capable lithium-ion battery solutions and the overall project has the potential to slash carbon emissions of data centre operations by up to 100 per cent.

From the start, Equinix data centres are designed with high operational standards and energy efficiency in mind. Best-in-class technologies are customised for each data centre depending on the specific area’s climate and accessibility to renewable energy sources. Underpinning these local initiatives is a holistic Future First sustainability strategy to drive progress within Equinix and the broader industry.

Equinix has been recognised with a host of sustainability awards across the Asia-Pacific region. Last year, the company received the China Light & Power Smart Award in the Energy Saving Performance category in Hong Kong and W.Media Southeast Asia Awards for Sustainable Design & Build for its SG5 data centre. It was also named Asia’s Green Company of the Year at the Asia Corporate Excellence & Sustainability (ACES) Awards, and the Singapore Data Centre Services Company of the Year by Frost & Sullivan. Equinix’s Asia-Pacific president Jeremy Deutsch was also named one of Asia’s Most Inspiring Executives by ACES.

“As the world’s digital infrastructure leader, Equinix is responsible for harnessing the power of technology to create a more accessible, equitable and sustainable future,” said Ms Leong. “We continue to drive our sustainability efforts to bring the world together on our platform to create innovations that will enrich our work, life and planet.”

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