Can data centres handle the heatwave?

19 Jul 2022

Image: © Orlando Inojosa/

With rising energy prices, ServerChoice said data centres will be ‘hit hard’ by the financial costs of staying cool during the heatwave.

As Europe continues to reel from the current heatwave, the rising temperatures are also expected to impact data centres.

Data centres need to be kept at optimum temperatures in order to operate effectively. While they can withstand extreme heat, higher temperatures can put a greater strain on the cooling systems that data centres rely on.

The commercial director of UK data centre service provider ServerChoice, Adam Bradshaw, said many of these cooling systems will be pushed to “maximum capacity” as a result of the heatwave conditions.

“With the energy crisis ongoing, the financial cost of keeping these servers cool today will hit data centres hard,” Bradshaw added.

Energy costs

As the demand for data grows, so too does the impact data centres have on energy grids. Figures released by the Central Statistics Office in May showed Irish data centres consumed more electricity than rural dwellings in 2021.

Bradshaw said the data centre industry underpins much of the UK’s digital presence and is a “vital aspect of the economy”.

“As energy bills are a data centre’s largest overhead, the rising price of energy has been hugely challenging to many businesses, even forcing some into administration,” Bradshaw said.

“The added costs caused by the heatwave highlight the need to alleviate the pressure on data centres and protect the interests of the country’s IT estate.”

Tech Monitor reported that older data centres may struggle during heatwaves, as newer systems are built to be more energy efficient.

Microsoft is introducing new approaches to water cooling and temperature management at its data centres, while a number of teams in Ireland have been working to utilise the heat from data centres and find more energy-efficient cooling methods.

Dublin energy agency Codema partnered with data centre provider Equinix earlier this year to look at new ways to reuse waste data centre heat for vital public infrastructure. Meanwhile, Trinity spin-out Nexalus is working on a way for power-hungry data centres to keep cool and create energy using water, rather than just consume it.

Data insights needed

NTT Data’s head of gas, power and water for UK and Ireland, Eduardo Fernandez, said cooling systems and air conditioning units will be utilised at a scale “never before seen” during the current heatwave.

“Such unprecedented demand presents a problem for the energy sector due to a lack of historical, easily extrapolated data on comparable temperatures and increases in energy costs,” Fernandez added.

As average global temperatures continue to rise amid the climate crisis, it is likely that heatwaves will become more common in Europe.

Fernandez said energy companies should “get ahead of the game” and work towards interoperable datasets, which could make it easier for different sectors to create insights on energy usage.

“This increased agility will allow them to react more quickly to supply and demand disturbances and manage the turbulent winter that is expected to come,” Fernandez said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic