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Nerdalize — Providing cloud services that are almost CO2-neutral

Current datacenters are huge energy wasters. Not only is a lot of energy is spent on the building and infrastructure, computer servers produce a lot of heat, therefore a lot of energy is needed to cool down all the servers in the datacenter. Although datacenters are getting more efficient in their energy use, the increasing cloud market makes that the datacenter industry now emits more CO2 than the aviation industry and this share is only getting larger. That is why we at Nerdalize are working hard on a sustainable alternative to current cloud solutions.

That all sounds pretty great, but what is the actual effect of our approach on the environment? That is what we asked Bas Minnema. During his graduation project for Science, Business & Innovation at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, he made an assessment of the total CO2 emissions in the life cycle of a Nerdalize server-heater.

Our Life Cycle Assessment: 97.1% lower CO2 emissions than an average datacenter

Bas compared the CO2 our solution produces throughout its life cycle with the CO2 emissions during the life cycle that of an average datacenter. The results of this analyses were beyond our expectations. He found that our CO2 emissions are even 97.1% lower than a datacenter of average size and efficiency in the Netherlands! The Nerdalize cloud solution even produces markedly less CO2 emissions than high efficiency datacenters. Nerdalize server-heaters reuse the residual heat produced by computations for heating and/or producing hot water.1 This eliminates the energy needed for cooling. Since the server-heaters are placed in households, there is no energy wasted on building and maintaining the datacenter and its infrastructure.

The diagram below shows the results of the amount of CO2 emissions per year for the five different scenarios. In this assessment, the amount of CO2 emissions is calculated per kilowatt-hour of power used for cloud services, also called kWh of useful IT power.

Comparison of yearly emissions

In this assessment, the life cycle CO2 emissions of a traditional datacenter and a high efficiency datacenter were calculated and compared to those of the Nerdalize server-heaters. For the Nerdalize server-heater, three scenarios are shown, which will show the impact of each factor. Each scenario is described below:

A traditional datacenter

Traditional datacenters have a lot of energy overhead on cooling and building.

A high efficiency datacenter

High efficiency datacenters use cooling techniques that require less energy, have better infrastructures and contain servers that are more durable and waste less energy.

A Nerdalize server-header

Nerdalize server-heaters need much less energy for the embodiment, since no datacenter is required. Additionally they don’t waste energy on cooling of the servers. In the first scenario, the server-heater runs on average grid mix electricity which is mainly generated by burning fossil fuels.

A Nerdalize server-header running on sustainable electricity

For the second scenario of the Nerdalize server-heater, the system runs on sustainable electricity, which is generated by durable energy sources. For the third scenario of the Nerdalize server-heater, the system also runs on sustainable electricity. Additionally, this scenario takes the gas savings into account, which will result in a negative amount of CO2! Assuming the residual heat replaces the heat generated by fossil fuels.

The emissions in the life cycle of a datacenter can be divided into 2 categories: embodied and operational. Embodied emissions are caused by the production, transportation and disposal of the IT equipment, infrastructure and shell of the datacenter; operational emissions are caused by energy use.

Why the Nerdalize cloud services have very low CO2 emissions

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method to assess the impact on the environment of a certain product, with all stages in its life considered. This includes the raw material extraction, manufacturing, transport, use and end of life treatment. By calculating the CO2 emissions caused during a life cycle, we can make a comparison of the total impact of different products.

The results of this assessment show that the Nerdalize server-heaters produce much less CO2 over their life cycle than even a high efficiency datacenter. High efficiency datacenters already produce almost 50% less CO2 than the average datacenter. The Nerdalize server-heaters take this a big step further.

The general life cycle
Why Nerdalize is greener in all cases

1. We use the residual heat to replace fossil-generated heat

Since Nerdalize server-heaters reuse the residual heat produced by computations for heating and/or producing hot water1, the emissions that are prevented this way, are subtracted from the total in the third scenario of the Nerdalize server-heater. Normally, natural gas would have been used to provide this heat.

2. We use much less energy

The system already uses much less energy during the production and manufacturing phase of the life cycle. Next to that, the system itself during the product use phase is very energy efficient. Therefore the Nerdalize server-heaters have a very low PUE and SPUE.

3. We use sustainable energy

Normally, natural gas would have been used to provide heat in households, which contains a high amount of CO2. Because of our collaboration with Eneco, the server-heaters run on Eneco electricity, which is from durable energy sources. This type of energy contains much less CO2, which reduces the amount of our CO2 emissions even more.

4. We use much less material

For the life cycle assessment of the Nerdalize server-heater, the components which are taken into account are the servers, a boiler and all other components that are needed to make it work. Compared to the datacenters, we do not need to build a complete building with large installations, only small modules forming a distributed datacenter.

We want to make sustainable computing power an affordable commodity, heat homes for free and drastically reduce emissions!

The cloud services provided by Nerdalize server-heaters have drastically lower CO2 emissions than average datacenters. Using Eneco electricity, the Nerdalize server-heaters are even close to being CO2-neutral. The use of cloud services is growing rapidly, which means the share in global greenhouse gas emissions are getting larger every day. Therefore, a sustainable alternative to current cloud solutions is more than needed.

Are you interested in reducing CO2 emissions on your cloud? Get in touch and we will give you more information about our sustainable solution!

  1. In contrast with the earlier piloted eRadiator, the latest design of the server-heater, uses its waste heat to produce hot water. By connecting our server-heater to a boiler, we store the hot water until needed and increase efficient use of the heat.  2

About our CO2 savingsheater
Liesanne Wieleman
posted this May 15, 2017