Texas Colocation Offers A New Vision for Sustainable Innovation
It’s an easily forgotten yet entirely irrevocable truth: modern life requires power. In recent years, technologies that were once staples of science fiction — smartphones, virtual reality, self-driving cars, global information networks — have become as unremarkable and fundamental to daily operations as any road or bridge.
“Society depends on digital infrastructure to uphold nearly every aspect of the modern human experience,” Shane Menking, COO of the data center solution and colocation services provider Element Critical, pointed out in an interview. “Today, data center technology provides the compute and storage foundations necessary to support all digital businesses such as banking, electrical grid management, and hospital operations to name a few. All around the globe, data from these applications flow through data centers that are pivotal in keeping technology available and right at our fingertips.”
But this support requires an immense amount of power. Data centers, which host IT equipment and enable businesses to store, process, and leverage their data and applications, demand up to 2% of the world’s electricity every year. The sheer demand is worthy of our consideration at a time when the effects of climate change are already apparent.
But in Texas, one data center provider has constructed a new model for how companies large and small can chase digital advancement while making use of renewable, cleaner, and more efficient energy sources.
In February, Element Critical announced that it had partnered with NextEra Energy — the world’s largest renewable wind and solar power provider — to source green, zero-carbon energy for its Texas facilities. As of this year, Element Critical’s colocation data centers in Houston and Austin will have a net-zero carbon footprint when it comes to energy procurement.
Renewable energy sources are ready to power innovative businesses worldwide.
But this achievement, the company says, is only the start. Element Critical intends to achieve 100% carbon offset for its entire data center portfolio by 2025; by 2030, it plans to power its operations with purchased renewable resources and solar power generated onsite. These measures will empower customers to shrink their carbon footprints with little to no effort because they can take advantage of these climate strides when they partner with Element Critical and colocate mission-critical compute within one of our high-efficiency, Texas data centers.
“Renewable energy is becoming more accessible, and data center providers can fast track ESG initiatives for businesses by supplying data center services that run entirely on renewable resources,” Menking shared in a blog. “It is now possible for companies to plan for a low-carbon future by running their data centers on 100% renewable energy through third-party colocation providers.”
Understanding the paradigm shift: presenting an efficient future for digitally empowered businesses
The significance of Element Critical’s quest to make renewable energy readily accessible for data center customers cannot be overstated. While efficiency has been a top priority for data center providers for years, this initiative is one of the first to prove that a genuinely carbon-neutral future is within reach.
For context — over the last decade and change, consumers and businesses alike have begun to rely more heavily on advanced technologies (e.g., AI, machine learning, VR, blockchain) in everyday life. These compute-intensive tools naturally require a significant amount of power and data; however, businesses often don’t have the resources or technological knowledge to support extremely high-density environments in-house or resources to negotiate power purchase agreements to offset their energy utilization with renewable energy. Many organizations resolve this quandary by outsourcing their data operations to a shared facility, or colocation data center.
Colocation offers a smart solution to computing obstacles.
“Colocation allows businesses to reduce their energy needs by sharing infrastructure space,” Menking explained. “Purpose-built data centers are already designed for ultimate energy efficiency and economical cooling, with resources optimized and the benefits spread across the shared tenancy environment.”
And make no mistake — purpose-built facilities and colocation trends have imparted a lot of efficiencies. According to data shared by the Berkeley Lab, data center electricity consumption has increased by an incredible 90% since 2000. However, despite the exponential increase in demand, usage increased by only 4% between 2014 and 2016 (the most recent years available), thanks to efficiency innovations built at scale.
Or, as one Element Critical representative summarized in a blog: “Just as carpooling reduces energy costs for vehicles, colocation reduces not just power requirements but infrastructure requirements such as lighting and cooling.”
Naturally, these efficiencies provide both environmental and business value. By reducing consumption, businesses can minimize their carbon footprint and limit their power expenses. All players win by prioritizing sustainability — which, according to Menking, has motivated companies like his to push the proverbial envelope even further when it comes to efficiency.
“In the current landscape, it is a fortuitous instance in which financial and environmental concerns are coinciding to build momentum,” he said. “Businesses are leveraging cloud computing and colocation data centers to fuel their digital transformation initiatives. In turn, data center owners and operators are emerging with an even greater interest in reducing energy usage for the customers collocated in their buildings as well as investing in sustainability initiatives to achieve carbon neutrality.”
A more climate-friendly digital infrastructure is guiding the way forward for the business
Element Critical has certainly done its part to innovate. The company’s recent initiatives push typical colocation efficiencies one step further — to use a previous metaphor, rather than simply carpooling, Element Critical’s customers automatically share an electric car.
Best of all, customers don’t need to go out of their way to reap efficiency gains. Because the company’s colocation facilities are built to maximize space and optimize power density per foot of computing, customers will automatically minimize their carbon output and costs. Utilizing green energy is equally easy; per Element Critical’s recent press release, the company has entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) to procure enough renewable energy to fuel 100% of operations at its Houston and Austin facilities.
Accessible green energy can raise the sustainability bar — and facilitate remarkable improvements for businesses
Element Critical’s efficiency offerings are remarkable for their scope, yes — but more so for their sheer accessibility. Uncertainty is one of the most significant hurdles businesses face when putting a sustainability ethos into action. Per a 2022 report from the Climate Action Hub, 63% of surveyed firms reported they lacked the skills and knowledge required to develop a sustainability plan.
This isn’t to say that organizations didn’t want to do so; 80% of businesses reported viewing emissions reduction as a high priority. They have reason for their enthusiasm; research has repeatedly confirmed the positive impact that sustainability measures can have on operational and financial performance. Sustainability is also a vital issue for employees — studies show that ESG performance can positively influence worker satisfaction, which can, in turn, lead employees to work harder, longer and better for their companies.
Sustainability has rapidly moved from optional to essential for businesses of every type.
Moreover, sustainability will likely shift from being important to downright imperative as younger generations increase their presence in the workforce. To borrow a quote from Mercer researchers: “By 2029, the Millennial and Gen Z generations will make up 72 percent of the world’s workforce, compared to 52 percent in 2019. These generations place greater importance on environmental and social concerns than their predecessors do — and will expect more from employers on these issues.”
The challenge, of course, lies in actionability. Business leaders often don’t know how to execute their sustainability goals. This uncertainty makes intuitive, even automatic “go-green” measures like Element Critical’s, crucial to long-term carbon mitigation and environmental preservation efforts.
“Our customers can take advantage of the green energy program with zero complexity. Reliable energy delivered below the cost of grid power brings savings for Texas businesses and the planet,” Menking said. “We recognize that renewable energy investments benefit the economy. They provide energy security, economic development, energy price stability, and environmental risk mitigation.”
“We’ll continue to find ways to make sustainability effortless for our clients — and we hope that others in and beyond our industry will do the same,” he concluded.
For more information on Element Critical’s sustainability efforts and service offerings, email us at [email protected]