Energy-Efficient Data Center Helps IT Company Reach Emissions Goal a Year Early

The Paris-based global IT consulting firm Capgemini reached its carbon-cutting goal a year ahead of schedule, in large part due to the company’s 32,000-square-foot Merlin data center, Edie.net reports. First constructed in 2010, features such as modular design, fresh air cooling, renewable energy sourcing, and flywheel technology have made the data center’s power usage effectiveness (PUE) readings competitive with the newest, most efficient data centers for tech giants like Google and Facebook.

Merlin was built on a brownfield in Swindon, Wiltshire in the UK, the location chosen due to its relatively low humidity and cooler air. Construction only took 22 weeks, sped along by the data center’s unique modular design. “Standalone units based upon mobile hospitals and laboratory solutions, which could be independently managed, powered, cooled, fitted out, and secured, were reviewed in detail,” Capgemini reported. The company sought a facility that could come online in stages to meet client demand instead of being a depreciating financial asset from the start.

Each module is made from 95% recyclable materials and has a structural lifecycle intended to last up to 60 years. Initial capacity for the data center was 12 modules containing 1,248 racks. Over the past seven years, the company has increased the size of the data center by 40% and added a new module, according to Edie.net. Merlin could potentially be fully recommissioned in three months if all the power and services needed are available, the company says.

The data center relies on renewable energy sources, meaning that it emits 330 metric tons of carbon annually compared to the 7,000 to 7,500 metric tons that a traditional data center relying on the UK grid would produce. Flywheel technology replaces battery technology for uninterrupted power. Merlin’s evaporative cooling system relies on fresh air, representing a 95% reduction in cooling energy compared to 50% for other data centers using fresh air cooling, Edie.net says. The building management system sensors monitor air quality and temperature while newer lighting sensors reduce energy consumption in unoccupied modules.

Since it first came online in September 2010, Merlin’s PUE readings have been between 1.08 and 1.12, according to Edie.net. Back then, the industry average was around 2 to 2.5 and has now reached 1.8. For comparison, Google currently reports a trailing 12-month PUE of 1.12 across all of its data centers and Facebook’s Prineville data center in Oregon has a live PUE dashboard that shows levels around 1.08 for the past year.

Although Capgemini has not made the cost of constructing the Merlin data center public, Edie.net reported that the company has said the ROI was two years. Data centers were responsible for more than 40% of Capgemini’s emissions in 2016 so the company says it plans to continue investing in measures that improve energy efficiency at these facilities.

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