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How Using Renewable Power Can Set a Data Center Apart
How Using Renewable Power Can Set a Data Center Apart

By Rhett Gill · 6/29/2021

For new players in the data center marketplace, discovering a unique competitive advantage or finding a way to set themselves apart from other providers can be a challenge. Echelon Data Centres, founded in 2017 by Aldgate Developments, is one of these new players.

We sat down with Damien Gaynor, Echelon’s Director of Sales and Marketing, to discover what they’ve done to get into the data center space and what they’re doing to stay there. As Gaynor shares, Echelon is working to meet the rapidly expanding global demand for data processing and storage solutions by developing large-scale campuses across Europe (focusing most of their efforts in Ireland). But what makes Echelon different is their focus on sustainability.

Sustainable Energy Isn’t Just a Niche

With the global green data center market expected to grow by $44.92 billion during the 2020-2024 period, it’s no secret that this sector of the market is available for anyone looking to make a splash. As cloud computing continues to leave a massive energy footprint, the option to push renewably powered businesses forward rests in the hands of the data center providers.

Coming from a commercial real estate background, Damien and the team at Echelon recognized this responsibility as an opening in the European market. They noticed that a majority of the power demand came from large metropolitan areas like London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Dublin. What they realized was that this demand created areas of strain on networks where the transmission capacity experiences real pressure to deal with all the centralized demand. So instead of trying to break into these urban hubs, Echelon has instead focused on creating data centers in rural areas just outside large cities.

Building Close to Renewable Resources

For example, their DUB20 site in Wicklow (which is about 30 miles south of Dublin) is located near the Arklow Wind Bank where SSE Renewables is building one of the largest offshore wind farms in Ireland. When it's complete, it will generate about 800-850 megawatts. A hydrogen production facility is also planned for the DUB20 site. With ample access to water from the Avoca River and the proximity of a source of large-scale renewable energy—plus a national grid connection—DUB20 is ideally suited to facilitate the creation of a long-term, sustainable solution to energy storage.

The idea is to build a data center closer to a source of renewable power and closer to the point of generation so the grid isn't put under so much pressure. Echelon’s theory is that in the short- to medium-term, as the industry moves towards genuinely renewable and environmentally friendly operation, “halfway house” solutions will be required to mitigate against aging and overburdened grid infrastructure. With that in mind, their goal is that all data centers one day be powered wholly by renewable energy.

How Financial Incentives Foster Environmental Awareness

Damien shares that at the end of the day, the push toward providing power through the use of renewable resources will come down to both the data center providers and the occupiers working toward the same goals. Wanting to be green is fantastic, he shares, but are we willing to pay for it? Are we willing to incentivize the person tasked with delivering the data to do so responsibly? If not, people will continue to default to what is cheapest and easiest.

As of today, making an effort to use renewable resources may take some extra energy. But if Echelon is an example of anything, it’s that the market is continuing to trend toward renewable resources, and people everywhere want to work with environmentally conscious companies.

Right now, the use of renewable resources is a competitive advantage. But soon, environmental awareness and responsible power consumption are going to be considered the bare minimum. The data centers leading this charge today are the ones who will be on top tomorrow.

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