Data centers in Europe are headed for trouble as climate change affects the continent's weather, according to a survey of data center consultants from the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, the Nertherlands, Sweden and Norway.
Operators in European countries are not confident in the grid’s ability to power their facilities, feel they may not be equipped to deal with temperature rises linked to climate change, according to the report, commissioned by temporary power, cooling and heating provider Aggreko. Third-party research group, Censuswide, compiled the report from 700 questionnaires filled in by respondents who “provide speciﬁc consultancy to data center operators, with regards to design, energy and engineering.”
Too hot in here
55 percent of respondents said they felt unsure that the grid could comfortably cope with data centers’ current energy requirements, and for many the logical conclusion has been to seek alternative means of energy procurement: solar, wind, battery storage and combined heat and power systems - in line with the EU’s ambition of making data centers carbon neutral by 2030.
However, faced with issues of resilience - due, according to respondents and in the following order, to unreliable battery storage technology, high costs, changing technologies and a lack of skilled workforce to install and tend to them - operators appear concerned for the ability of first generation data centers to cope.
And, as summers grow hotter and longer, just forty percent of respondents said they felt comfortable that their facilities had the necessary infrastructure in place to brave the heat should energy transmission from the grid lapse.
Conveniently for Aggreko, the report’s conclusions support the idea of using temporary power systems and chillers to survive the heat should it be needed on an occasional basis, but the issue remains.
In the face of climate change, data center operators are confronted with other risks: rising sea levels, increasingly frequent natural disasters, droughts and wildfires, for all of which preparedness is limited - as detailed in this feature by deputy editor Sebastian Moss earlier this year, which also appeared on the cover of the March issue of DCD Magazine.
How much emphasis the industry, the utilities they rely on, and governments place on data center resilience will define whether the society in which we can rely on digital infrastructure, often depicted as a haven of artificial intelligence and smart everything - can become a reality.