NextDC reduces its carbon footprint with solar

The M1 data centre will soon house the largest private solar array in Australia

NextDC has moved to reduce the carbon footprint of its data centres through adopting photovoltaic technology to power its M1 data centre, based in Port Melbourne.

The $1.2 million, 400kW solar panel-based system will be the largest privately-owned photovoltaic system, according the company, and will generate around 550 MWh per annum, offsetting around 670 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.

Bevan Slattery, CEO at NextDC, told Computerworld the installation of the solar panels is part of the company’s strategy to develop “next generation data centres”.

“One of the things that we absolutely have to focus on is delivering kilowatts or processing power for our clients … as cost effective as possible. Solar is one of our carbon reduction initiatives, [amongst] a number of [things],” Slattery said. “So for us it’s a pretty straight forward investment.”

The solar system at M1 will provide 2 per cent to 4 per cent of the building’s energy requirements. Other sustainability initiatives at the facility include environmentally friendly paint selection, efficient lighting systems, variable speed fans and free air cooling technology.

Slattery said while solar has its limitations, reducing a building’s total energy consumption from the grid is helping to reduce its carbon footprint.

“What solar does is it basically reduces the amount of energy we consume at that time from the grid. We’ve also got grid power, we’ve got generational power and we’ve also got trigeneration capacity as well,” Slattery said.

Several other new NextDC data centres also include trigeneration, which uses waste heat to cool and heat a building.

Slattery said large-scale data centres still need a grid connection and a primary power source, but in states like Victoria, which he said burns a lot of brown coal, technology such as trigeneration and cogeneration will become more important in data centres over the next five years.

NextDC will install up to 1 MW of solar panels in new data centres over the next 12 months, but Slattery said retrofitting facilities with trigeneration can be difficult.

“It’s not just the space to retrofit it, it’s actually your switchboard [and] your main internal electricity distribution network. It really has to have that catered for,” Slattery said.

“So in legacy facilities, it’s fair to say that it’s generally pretty hard to do that, but in newer facilities, not so much.”

Energy Matters will construct and install the solar array at M1 over the next couple of months.

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