Environmental regulations guide how businesses should operate to prevent pollution from harming society. While many people associate environmental regulations with heavy industry, the rules also apply to other sectors—including data centers.
As data centers become more central to the economy, their environmental impact also increases. This process has brought more scrutiny from regulators. As a result, data center operators increasingly find themselves in the sights of new rules and restrictions.
While facing environmental regulations may seem unpleasant at times, these rules do offer important protections. As such, it’s smart to learn their ins and outs so your organization can avoid penalties and protect the environment.
The Problems Caused by Data Centers
Not all data centers cause the same degree of environmental damage, but they do tend to cause the same general categories of problems. And as data centers continue growing in size and number, these problems are increasing as well. So, it’s imperative they comply with environmental regulations.
Among the main issues is the large and growing energy use by data centers. Processors are becoming more power-hungry, and air cooling remains inefficient. This industry has already surpassed many others in its power use, and the problem is rapidly reaching catastrophic proportions. Data centers are on a collision course with limited resources and the negative effects of resource waste.
In addition, when powering data centers, many toxic and radioactive substances are spread throughout the air, land, and water. The power-generation process and data center operations also add waste heat into the environment, worsening global warming. One byproduct is the billowing emission of carbon dioxide. Most energy sources used to fuel data centers store carbon trapped under the earth. When these carbon reserves are burned, they emit the hazardous molecule into the air.
There are many other environmental problems caused by data centers. For instance, they waste large amounts of water, much of it potable. They also produce electronic waste, including old IT equipment and other discarded hardware.
Data centers as a whole seem unable or unwilling to fix many of these problems. While a few green data centers have taken steps to counteract their environmental effects, most facilities are just starting to become aware of the magnitude of the problem. This is why government involvement has become not just relevant, but necessary.
How Do the Government’s Environmental Regulations Help?
The government attempts to help control the problems caused by data centers through environmental regulations. Three important ones to know are the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Energy Act.
These regulations work together to cover several related aspects relevant to data centers. They also establish certain mandatory standards of behavior. Companies must meet these requirements, or they could face fines or even jail time.
1. Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act regulates air pollution. It establishes limits on the emissions produced by various systems. These include facilities such as data centers as well as other sectors of the economy including vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines appropriate constraints while balancing the harms of emissions and the limitations of available technologies.
When it comes to data centers, sources of air emissions include generators, other uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), and air conditioners. Note that many of these are necessary for conventional air cooling, but they can be eliminated with GRC’s liquid immersion cooling. Simply put, it’s easier to keep the air clean and comply with environmental regulations when you use immersion cooling.
2. Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act regulates water pollution. While it dates back to 1948, this law has undergone more recent modifications. One of its main purposes is to control the processing of wastewater by data centers and other firms.
Data centers that take their drinking water from the local utility and discharge modest amounts of wastewater don’t need any specific precautions. They also generally don’t have atypical needs for handling storm water.
Where a data center may risk issue is with chiller blowdown. This could potentially discharge toxic wastewater due to bromine-containing antimicrobial agents. Sodium hydroxide can also increase the alkalinity of water to excess. Again, traditional air cooling has complex chiller dependencies, while liquid immersion cooling removes such problems.
3. Energy Act
The Energy Act promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. It’s a much more recent piece of legislation, only going back a few years. Some of its stipulations refer specifically to data centers.
Under the Energy Act, data center operators should employ appropriate benchmarks and measurements to achieve greater energy efficiency. The government also produces information on data center water efficiency and related technological innovations.
Taken together, these steps bring the industry toward a tighter standard of energy use. And as with air and water regulations, the main culprit is outdated air cooling. This wastes much of a center’s energy; in some cases, more than half. Liquid immersion cooling is the answer, as this green technology virtually eliminates cooling energy losses.
Go Green to Comply with Environmental Regulations
Environmental regulations such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Energy Act mitigate the environmental impact of data centers. To prevent fines and other penalties, focus on environmental sustainability. By complying with regulations, you’re not just avoiding problems; you’re also relying on carefully established standards that serve to improve business and life as a whole.
Data center operators can adhere to environmental regulations by using best practices and clean technologies, including Green Revolution Cooling’s (GRC) liquid immersion cooling. It uses far less electricity than traditional data center cooling, which has knock-on benefits for air and water as well.
Download our free white paper to learn how immersion cooling handles even the toughest jobs like cryptocurrency mining. For high-performance computing or data centers of any size, liquid immersion is the sustainable cooling technology of choice.
Immersion cooling also makes you eligible for government grants supporting green IT. And because immersion cooling uses fewer resources, you’ll even save on operating expenses. Contact GRC now to learn more about the most sustainable data center technology.