top of page
  • Writer's pictureSimon Roberts

How green is your Data Centre and how is Google innovating in the cloud sustainability space?

This article discusses the importance of considering carbon footprint while selecting a region in GCP. It highlights the tool provided by Google to balance Carbon Footprint, Price, and Latency. I discuss the carbon-free energy production of different regions, such as Iowa, Montreal, Australia, and Toronto, and the impact of nuclear energy on the environment. The article emphasizes the need to consider the environmental impact of data centers while making decisions based on latency and price.


So, How Green is your Data Centre?

In a recent Cloud Sustainability Meetup, I talked about selecting a Region in GCP based on Latency vs Price vs Carbon Footprint. This blog expands on the Carbon Footprint part of that decision, and includes analysis that didn’t make the cut for the presentation. The details below describe the relative carbon-emissions between several different data-centers, using the tool provided by google.

The full slide deck from the meetup is available here Sustainability Meetup - Introduction and GCP.pdf

Google has a tool to balance Carbon Footprint vs Price vs Latency https://cloud.withgoogle.com/region-picker/

Each region has:

  • Carbon Free Energy: as a percentage - what fraction of the energy generation in this region is generated without emitting CO2

  • Grid carbon intensity: amount of CO2eq per kWh (other greenhouse gasses can be scaled to CO2 equivalence - see https://climatepolicyinfohub.eu/glossary/co2eq)

  • Google Compute Engine price: $/vCPU-hour

Example: Iowa, USA

  • In 2020, wind turbines generated 57% of Iowa’s electricity, the highest wind power share for any state.

  • Google has specific 20-year contracts to buy a large volume of wind-farm energy provider (though it doesn’t use this directly)





Example: Montreal, Canada

Montreal Canada (right) gets most of its energy from Hydro and Wind, so scores a 100% on carbon-free energy production. Natural Gas and Petroleum energy generation is only used for peak winter demand or power in remote communities. Quebec Energy Profile





Example: Australia

The two Australian data-centers do NOT have very good carbon-free energy ratings.s

At the moment NSW generates 62% of energy from Black coal, while VIC generates 66% from Brown coal (which is very polluting), though the fraction of solar and wind are increasing.


https://opennem.org.au/energy/vic1/?range=all&interval=1y

Nuclear Energy

However, the energy provided to Google data centers in some parts of the world come predominantly from Nuclear Energy (reactors). These don’t directly produce CO2, so Google counts it as “Green” - but these power plants are not without environment impact. The mining, milling and enrichment of uranium into nuclear fuel are extremely energy-intensive and result in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. There is also the issue of extremely toxic and long-lived byproducts, and the every-present danger of nuclear accidents.

Example: Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada gets most of it’s energy (59%) from nuclear reactors (right), yet this places near the top of the list above. This is presumably also the case in Paris, France (70% nuclear), Belgium (48%), Finland (32%), amongst other places. https://ourworldindata.org/nuclear-energy Ontario Energy Profile




Conclusion

In conclusion, selecting a region in GCP based on latency, price, and carbon footprint is crucial for reducing the environmental impact of data centers. By utilising the tool provided by Google and considering factors such as carbon-free energy production and grid carbon intensity, companies can make informed decisions that prioritise sustainability while still achieving their business goals. As the demand for cloud services continues to grow, it’s more important than ever to prioritise environmentally friendly data center practices. By doing so, companies can not only reduce their carbon footprint but also attract environmentally conscious clients and position themselves as leaders in the industry. So, if you’re looking to optimise your cloud spending and make deployment decisions that best reflect your environmentally friendly ethos, reach out to Innablr. We’d be happy to assist you with our range of services and solutions that are tailored to your specific needs.

Comments


bottom of page