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A data center’s take on Earth Day

Data centers are likely not the first thing that jumps to mind when you think of Earth Day and sustainability.

04 / 21 / 2022
4 minute read
Earth Day

In fact, as large consumers of power and emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG), data centers generally get a bad rap for their environmental impacts. However, that is changing.

While data centers once consumed about 3% of the worldwide power supply and accounted for about 2% of total GHG emissions, those numbers have improved to 1% of global electricity demand and 0.3% of global CO2 emissions.

These improved metrics are the result of significant sustainability investments by the data center industry. Flexential, a leading provider of data center colocation, cloud, and connectivity, has made a commitment to integrate sustainable practices into its operations. In alignment with this year’s Earth Day theme of “Investing in Our Planet,” Flexential is undertaking a series of sustainability efforts to lessen its impact on the environment.

State-of-the-art, efficient facilities

In December 2021, Flexential completed the largest green data center asset-backed securities (ABS) financing to date to support its rapid growth with a focus on sustainability. The company issued the green notes under its new Green Finance Framework, which promotes rigorous data center energy and water efficiencies.  

Flexential’s Generation 5 data centers—the first of which is scheduled to open in Atlanta in early 2023—will use its own technology to offer a water usage effectiveness (WUE) of zero and a 1.4 or lower power usage effectiveness (PUE). Flexential has also evolved its Generation 4 data centers to meet the same standards and is continually updating its legacy facilities to increase its efficiencies and sustainability efforts.

Power consumption

Flexential is committed to continually lowering its power consumption. When the data center provider began its sustainability strategy in 2011, its typical PUE ranged between 2 and 2.5—a far cry from the standards it is now committed to achieving.

Water-efficient cooling

Flexential has also made tremendous strides in water conservation. Its commitment to zero WUE means water is not used in the operation of the data center, including in its cooling capabilities. In lieu of a water-based system, Flexential uses an air-cooled system to cool the servers and regulate the temperature in the data hall.

Energy-efficient equipment

Flexential also addresses the efficiency of the individual equipment within its facilities. By investing in Energy Star efficiency-rated UPS systems, Flexential further minimizes its power consumption. Energy-efficient equipment makes a marked difference in overall data center efficiency. While an individual piece of equipment may only offer 1-2% efficiency improvement, the cumulative effect of these components across Flexential’s portfolio of 38 data centers can make a meaningful impact.

Renewable energy options

Flexential also sources renewable energy when available in its markets. Access to renewables and utility providers with carbon-free generation commitments is a key factor in choosing locations for its newest data center builds. The ability to procure renewables is a growing differentiator in the data center market as more businesses want to partner with providers with renewable energy strategies.

Lighting efficiency

Data centers require a lot of bright lighting to allow technicians to work effectively. These high-wattage lights consume more energy. To conserve energy, Flexential employs internally designed lighting fixtures that minimize power consumption without sacrificing brightness. Flexential’s lighting systems also operate on automated schedules, shutting lights off during non-business hours and turning them back on during peak hours. This solution also integrates occupancy sensor technology to detect movement in an area and turn lights on and off, as needed.

Community-based corporate initiatives

Flexential also drills its sustainability efforts down to the local level. Every data center participates in an internal recycling program and is equipped with a water filtration system to encourage the use of reusable water bottles. Flexential also embraces remote work initiatives to reduce the environmental footprint of its office spaces and minimize employee travel.

The recycling initiative also extends to a large-scale cardboard recycling program. Data centers receive massive quantities of customer equipment, all packaged in cardboard boxes. Typically, a data center is responsible for 30-40 tons of cardboard each year. Flexential uses bailers at each location to compress the cardboard and prepare it for recycling.

Continuously investing in the planet

In addition to its sustainability efforts, Flexential supports the well-being of the planet by enabling its customers’ critical missions. Many of Flexential’s customers are doing vital work that benefits humanity and the Earth. One customer relies on Flexential reliable, high-performing environments to run DNA sequencing to help find cures and treatments for COVID-19, cancer, and other illnesses. By supporting the capabilities of customers that make a difference in the health and well-being of the world—and doing it in a highly efficient way—Flexential is able to be a good steward of the planet.

Most importantly, the Flexential Environmental, Social & Governance strategy is a continually evolving and strengthening endeavor that embraces new technologies and efforts to make a lasting and discernable difference in the world.

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