We live in an ever-growing data-centric world – a staggering 90 % of existing data has been created in the last two years alone. With increasing demand for Internet-of-Things devices and the data-driven nature of modern scientific discovery, we are witnessing an exponential growth in both data volumes and the associated need for high-performance computing (HPC). The International Data Group forecasts the HPC market to grow around 25 % per annum, with a predicted market size of US$719 billion in 2026.
The world’s data-centres are an energy-intensive beast, consuming more energy than entire countries and emitting as much carbon dioxide as the airline industry. As a result, building traditional data-centres is already a challenge in some parts of the world. Ireland is currently proposing to ban new-builds. Meanwhile, Singapore, Frankfurt and Amsterdam have imposed moratoriums to limit data-centre development. In the modern world of big data, a balance between economic and environmental sustainability has become more than a priority in the business of HPC.
Hydrogen energy research drives green-innovation investment.
Perth-headquartered DUG Technology is proud to design, own and operate a network of some of the greenest supercomputing installations on Earth. PUE (power usage effectiveness) and WUE (water usage effectiveness) metrics can be used to monitor and quantify usage of these resources. DUG’s Perth data-centre operates with a PUE as low as 1.03 and a WUE of 1.35 (compared to 1.59* and 1.8^ respectively for an average data-centre). The company’s dielectric-fluid immersion-cooling solution, DUG Cool, uses 85 % less synthetic refrigerants and reduces power consumption by up to 51 %. Those are significant numbers with respect to both their economic and environmental outcomes. At the end of the day the greenest energy is the energy you don’t use.
DUG plans to build the world’s first climate-positive HPC campus in Geraldton, WA, powered by renewable energy. It will use DUG’s patented cooling technology to provide some of the most energy-efficient and greenest HPC on the planet, while taking advantage of the high availability and accessibility of wind and solar in the region. DUG has also been developing novel, low-cost, maintainable solutions for hydrogen electrolysis at megawatt scale, as part of the company’s green-innovation investment initiatives. As power prices from renewables become more economical, DUG believes that the capital costs of electrolysers are the primary obstacle to economically-viable hydrogen energy storage systems. The combination of the DUG Cool immersion technology with an economic hydrogen energy storage system would greatly improve the climate-positive outcomes that DUG can deliver through its planned renewables-powered Geraldton campus.
Commenting on the work, DUG’s Chief Engineer Mark Lommers FIEAust said: ”Low-cost hydrogen energy storage technology represents a significant milestone in the quest for a solution to the intermittency of traditional renewables generation. These advances complement our innovative approach to data-centre cooling systems to deliver the world’s most climate-friendly HPC.”
While Geraldton is a premium location for green energy, with an ideal climate for both wind and solar there are, on average six hours each day when these renewables are not generating. Hydrogen energy storage systems provide a possible green-power solution. However, the economics of such systems are closely tied to the capital cost of hydrogen electrolysers. An electrolyser is a device which splits water (H2O) to produce hydrogen (H2) using electrical energy. When the electrical input comes from a renewable source, the hydrogen generated is green. A fuel cell uses the chemical energy of hydrogen to produce electricity, with water as the by-product.
DUG’s current modelling suggests, by implementing renewables-generated power and a hydrogen energy storage system, it can generate power at a levelised cost of energy (LCoE) of AU$0.13 per kilowatt-hour. This implies a levelised cost of hydrogen (LCoH) of AU$3 per kilogram. While these values are inherently economical, DUG expects they will also have far-reaching implications with respect to both commercial and household applications of the technology. With ongoing development, DUG’s goal is an LCoH of AU$2 per kilogram with an LCoE of AU$0.10 per kilowatt-hour.
What you need to know about carbon jargon.
Sustainability is about coexisting harmoniously with planet Earth. A ”footprint” has a negative impact on sustainability (such as a carbon footprint), while a “handprint” entails a positive action. Balancing footprints and handprints results in no net impact, i.e. “neutral” or “net-zero”.
With our historical footprints, we must now strive to go beyond neutrality. The new mandate is to rapidly transition toward making an excess of handprints to help counter the actions of the past. This concept is well encapsulated by the term “climate positive”, with outcomes that include helping others meet their sustainability goals or generating more green energy than needed for neutral operations.
Innovation powers a sustainable future.
Climate change is a pressing global issue that creates both challenges and opportunities. Humanity’s response will require investment in research and infrastructure, which will inevitably spark a range of initiatives that will reshape business operations. Individuals and businesses alike, have a responsibility to act as part of a determined, international effort to implement sustainable solutions. This effort will be increasingly driven by innovation, regulation and evolving client expectations.
Dramatically reducing power consumption, harnessing renewable energy and innovative hydrogen energy storage systems are the pillars underpinning DUG’s climate-positive Geraldton campus. As we transition to a sustainable future, DUG envisions that its Geraldton campus will not only accelerate scientific research and big data analysis, but also simultaneously help clients achieve their carbon-reduction goals and meet environmental, social and governance requirements.
* Uptime institute – 2020 Survey – Figure 5 – https://www.missioncriticalmagazine.com/ext/resources/whitepapers/2020/2020AnnualSurvey_EndUser_v4s.pdf
^ Shehabi et al, 2016 – Section 2.3.6 –