If the current trend continues, the data center industry will consume 20 percent of the world’s power by 2025. This is an unsustainable development and one MIRIS aims to reverse by making data centers a part of the solution and not the problem.
Data centers are notoriously energy demanding because servers generate a lot of heat and require cooling to avoid malfunction. This cooling process is an environmental double whammy because it both requires a lot of power and wastes precious heat.
Who is to blame for this unsustainable trend?
Binge-watching is increasing your carbon footprint
Because our increasing use of internet-enabled devices is driving an increase in data center demand, we all need to take responsibility for the associated growth in power usage.
Your next email alone will leave a carbon footprint equivalent to four grams of CO2, and your Netflix binging tonight will also add to your carbon footprint. You see, everything you do that creates an exchange of data is executed by a server, typically located somewhere far away. These servers, working tirelessly to supply citizens with data, consume vast amounts of energy. As a matter of fact, data centers today make up 2 percent of the world’s total energy consumption, and it’s expected to grow quickly — most certainly as new technologies such as VR and 5G come along. This is not sustainable in the long run, and we believe ignoring this issue will mean sacrificing the environment.
The way forward: Presenting Spark Power City
Spark, a revolutionary smart society project, was revealed at the Nordic Edge Expo in Stavanger, Norway, just last month.
Spark Power City is a collaboration among MIRIS; Norwegian architects, Snøhetta; engineers and architects, Asplan Viak; and Finnish tech giant, Nokia. The project will create the first energy-positive community in the world by using heat and energy from data centers — placed in the heart of the city.
We have already received a lot of positive feedback, especially from local municipalities. To them, Spark represents a huge opportunity because:
- Spark can provide surrounding buildings with heat and energy, lowering costs and the environmental footprint.
- The project will attract businesses (especially those who rely on ultrafast and reliable data processing), create jobs, and thus increase tax revenue for the local government.
- It is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
40 percent reduction in energy consumption
Existing data centers are usually located off the beaten path. You’ll find them outside cities and in enclosed buildings. Even mountains are carved out to make room for servers and equipment.
With Spark Power City, data centers are placed in the heart of the city, allowing them to exchange energy with nearby buildings. Heat can flow from the data center to neighboring schools, sports facilities, and hospitals, and these facilities can also share any power surplus with the data center.
It’s a cyclic energy system and a win-win for all parties because it is both sustainable and cost-effective. Our studies have shown that cities with up to 18,000 inhabitants can stay self-sufficient using this model. Compared to other ordinary data centers, Spark Power City can reduce energy consumption by up to 40 percent.
And we’re quickly moving from can to will.
Spark Power City is not some distant utopia — it’s happening
Talking to visitors at our stand, we kept getting one question: “How real is this, and when will the technology be available?”
We’re happy to say it’s very real today. We will continue to develop the concept and make it even more efficient, but all the technology we use in Spark is currently available.
Joining us at the Nordic Edge Expo was Fredrik Seliussen, head of development at Os Municipality, Norway. Together with Seliussen, we’re close to realizing the first-ever Smart Power City: Lyseparken Business Park. When it’s finished, Lyseparken will become the first energy-positive city in the world.
However, Lyseparken is just one example of how the Spark concept can be brought to life. MIRIS is already speaking with several other municipalities and is developing smaller-scale Spark projects for industrial buildings with significant demand for heating.
Spark represents an opportunity to chart out a new path for our communities. It makes better use of our limited resources, reverses an unfortunate trend, and creates opportunities for economic growth and revitalization. It’s a big deal for us, for Os Municipality, and for the environment.
Needless to say, we’re very excited about the future.