Could data centres carry huge clean energy opportunities?

At the centre of our online activity, data centres give us the ability to lead the mass amount of consumption across the digital world. Unfortunately, they also contribute to a significant amount of energy usage, totalling four per cent of Australia’s total energy usage among the top 100 data centres in the country.

Thanks to the rise of COVID-19, our lives have also been forced to move even more into the online landscape, shifting our habits and work routines into hugely internet-reliant ones. And that means energy consumption is also on the increase, with data centres now experiencing a challenge to figure out how to cater to the influx of demand but combat the negative effects of exploding usage.

Recently, Amazon Web Services announced its intentions to to fuel its operations through renewable energy, all on a global level. This mixed things up for the industry, bringing the need for change to the attention of other sleeping giants who had previously turned a blind eye.

Because of its sheer amount of influence and manpower (not to mention, investment) Amazon is more than capable of rehauling its operations through the development of solar farms. But for competitors, it’s a crowded space, making upgrading or further integration a tough task to tackle.

Up until now, data centres have typically been restricted in their energy procurement – according to One Step Off The Grid. The online publication points out that “Direct procurement from energy generators is traditionally confined to energy users spending more than $2 million annually on power on a single site.”

Bigger manufacturers and facilities have the luxury of their own solar or renewable resources, while most other companies have to buy their energy from a retailer – making life hard when you’re after a sustainable option.

Embracing sustainability without sacrificing profitability

This is the real challenge: these smaller players without the above luxuries have to find a way to incorporate sustainability into their operations, without eliminating profit or competitiveness. But thanks to a new development in the market, there may be a simple way to solve this rising issue.

Using blockchain, it may be possible to use specifically designed architecture for Australia’s data centres, allowing businesses to buy verified renewable energy directly at a competitive price point.

This opportunity would also give both flexibility and an honest path to incorporating sustainability into the data centre equation. The intention comes with the chance to use blockchain to offer “standard partial-purchasing of PPAs to remove challenges that are otherwise being felt by the industry.

These PPAs would also enable consumers to get their foot through the door of directly accessing energy before they commit to something more larger and permanent.