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Solving the Big Data Energy Crisis

At CERAWeek, the rising resource demands from data centers fueled by A.I. dominated conversation. Smart policies that safeguard access to F-gases can unleash a new era of energy efficiency and innovation.

Solving the Big Data Energy Crisis

At CERAWeek, the rising resource demands from data centers fueled by A.I. dominated conversation. Smart policies that safeguard access to F-gases can unleash a new era of energy efficiency and innovation.

Published 04-03-24

Submitted by The Chemours Company

By Joe Martinko, President, Thermal & Specialized Solutions (TSS), Chemours 

Recently, media, industry leaders, and government officials descended on Houston, Texas for CERAWeek 2024, where the imperative for all sectors of the economy to boost energy efficiency took center stage. However, as the conference’s host state undergoes a massive data center construction boom, we can’t ignore the ever-growing energy demands of the data center industry.

Globally, the tech sector is estimated to account for up to 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Data centers – the facilities that house essential computing infrastructure and data – are particularly emissions-intensive. The energy consumed by data centers is equivalent to the energy used by entire countries such as Spain or the United Kingdom. A single data center also uses several million gallons of water per year, with hyperscale data centers consuming as many as 200 million gallons in a year alone. In one instance, a hyperscale company wanted as much as 1.46 billion gallons of water a year for a new data center in Red Oak, Texas – a town roughly 20 miles south of Dallas. These staggering resource demands exist because 95% of data centers rely on traditional, resource-intensive air and water cooling technologies that drive about 40% of data center energy use.

Demands for faster computing and the rapid growth of artificial intelligence – which requires significantly more energy than traditional computing – will only exacerbate the resource needs of data centers. The International Energy Agency estimates that data center electricity demand will more than double in the next three years, consuming one-third of all electricity in countries like Ireland by 2026.

Against this backdrop, it goes without saying that we need energy efficient solutions to address the big data energy crisis. But critically, we also need policies that enable the tech industry to enhance energy efficiency while continuing to foster the innovation that our increasingly digital world demands. When crafting legislation, lawmakers must consider how to enable solutions that support energy efficiency across all industries, by protecting access to the critical inputs on which those solutions rely.

This is the case with a breakthrough innovation called two-phase immersion cooling (2-PIC). To cool data centers, this closed loop system submerges servers in a liquid while it operates. The heat generated by the electronics is removed as the fluid boils, and that heat can be recovered and used for other purpose on-site. This technology stands to drastically reduce the energy and water consumption of data centers. In fact, third-party modeling estimates that a 100-megawatt Houston-based data center could reduce cooling energy use up to 90% and generate over $350 million in energy savings over 10 years by leveraging 2-PIC instead of current air and water technologies.1

Beyond energy and water efficiency, 2-PIC technology also offers an environmental footprint that is 60% smaller compared to traditional air-cooling technology and would generate global energy savings of 340 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2055 – or the equivalent of powering more than 517 million laptops 24/7.2

This innovation relies on hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), which are a newer class of climate-friendly fluorinated gases (F-gases), which are safe for use in the intended application and can be recovered and recycled, promoting circularity. If we hope to address the big data energy crisis—and other societal challenges in the future—HFOs and other sustainable innovations must be protected by regulation.

To leverage 2-PIC as a solution for drastically improving water and energy efficiency, policymakers must protect access to all of the critical ingredients on which 2-PIC relies, including F-gases. Policy frameworks that do this will be instrumental to addressing the big data energy crisis.

Such policy frameworks will also, in turn, advance the global sustainability agenda as outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement while helping to achieve other important policy priorities – the critical role of 2-PIC in the data center industry has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense, which dubbed this proven technology as critical to national security.

As we look back on CERAWeek, we are glad the imperative for policies that meet this pivotal moment in history was part of the discussion. Data centers are the foundation of our increasingly digital economy, and ensuring they are able to operate efficiently is vital to enabling technological innovation that will bring about further environmental, economic, and societal progress.

With this in mind, we urge policymakers to develop clear and transparent policy frameworks that allow industry to innovate and adopt solutions that maximize energy efficiency, and we urge data center operators and players throughout the value chain to remember that their voices are indispensable. To unleash energy efficient innovation for data centers, we encourage you to call on government to pursue smart, science-based regulations that ensure access to the critical technologies of the future.

Joe Martinko is the President of Thermal & Specialized Solutions (TSS) at Chemours. TSS is a market leader in producing refrigerants, thermal management solutions, propellants, blowing agents, and specialty solvents. Building on deep knowledge of refrigerants dating back to the commercial introduction of Freon™ in 1930, Chemours TSS business is leading the way in the development of sustainable technologies like Opteon™, one of the world’s lowest global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant brands.

1 The Green Grid, Liquid Cooling TCO Calculation Tool

2 This assumes 100% market conversion to 2-PIC.

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The Chemours Company

The Chemours Company

The Chemours Company (NYSE: CC) is a global leader in Titanium Technologies, Thermal & Specialized Solutions, and Advanced Performance Materials providing its customers with solutions in a wide range of industries with market-defining products, application expertise and chemistry-based innovations. We deliver customized solutions with a wide range of industrial and specialty chemicals products for markets, including coatings, plastics, refrigeration and air conditioning, transportation, semiconductor and consumer electronics, general industrial, and oil and gas. Our flagship products are sold under prominent brands such as Ti-Pure™, Opteon™, Freon™, Teflon™, Viton™, Nafion™, and Krytox™. The company has approximately 6,200 employees and 28 manufacturing sites serving approximately 2,700 customers in approximately 110 countries. Chemours is headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware and is listed on the NYSE under the symbol CC.

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