The facility of progress: value, predictability enhance curiosity in renewable energies – information heart frontier

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Iron Mountain has installed a 7-megawatt solar system on the roof of its data center in Edison, New Jersey (Image: Iron Mountain Data Centers).

Rich Miller, Editor of Data Center Frontier, recently had a conversation about the future of sustainable data centers with Kevin Hagen, Director Corporate Responsibility at Iron Mountain, and Alex Sharp, Global Head of Design & Construction – Data Centers at Iron Mountain. For more information, register for a webinar on Wednesday.

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Rich Miller (RM): Let's start with the bigger picture. How do you rate the data center industry's progress towards green data centers and sustainability?

Kevin Hagen (KH): We are learning that social responsibility is not a tax for the good. It requires us to think about business differently from systems thinkers and achieve more outside of our walls.

Kevin Hagen, vice president of environmental, social and governance strategy (ESG) at Iron Mountain.

If we stick to the higher expectation of delivering these innovations, we will actually find new ways to do things that are better for the company, better for the environment, and better for the community. It's actually not a compromise: you don't have to choose between doing the right thing and doing green or socially responsible behavior.

Renewable energies are a good example. In the early days it was felt to be more expensive and had all sorts of challenges. However, if we work together as individual organizations and collectively through organizations like the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance and the Future of Internet Power Working Group to develop industry-wide thoughts, we can all leverage those efforts.

We have found that renewable energies have huge advantages over fossil fuels in terms of energy costs over the long term. Renewable energy providers offer long term fixed price contracts with much lower risk that is factored into the pricing and price stability that our customers love. There was this sudden realization that what we thought was more expensive is actually the cheapest.

There are just so many ways the old stereotype of compromise can be blown up. And we have to stick to the higher standard.

“Renewable energy providers offer long-term, fixed-price contracts with much lower risk that is factored into the pricing and price stability that our customers love.” – Kevin Hagen, Eisenberg

This is an incredibly innovative, creative industry. What we do know is that we are probably thinking too small. We need to continue these improvements, but also think about the bigger picture so we can continue to find the breakthrough opportunities that are changing the picture.

Alex Sharp, Global Head of Design and Construction at Iron Mountain

RM: Let's talk about building. How do you deal with sustainable building and how does the process differ from the way things have always been done?

Alex Sharp (AS): One of the most important things about design is that you have to start with the design from the start because if you don't, you will miss out on opportunities. And as we all know, it is expensive to do something after the fact.

The other thing that we need to see is that environmental issues in construction, like health and safety, need to be addressed where they are non-negotiable. They are absolutely the first items on the agenda.

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We need to deal with the disposal of waste from the construction site, and we need to deal with recyclable products and the contents of the materials we use to build data centers. We minimize waste and consider reverse logistics so that the packaging on the vehicle is removed when the equipment is packed. This may seem very simple, but not many people look at these things in this level of detail.

I think it's also about looking at cleaner technology. The diesel generator is a staple food in our industry. We're going to look at things that are much cleaner in terms of emissions, like generating gas with biomass. We will check whether we can convert the waste heat from our plant back into energy. And by securing all of our data centers and operating them with renewable energies.

Find out about the first three entries in this series of special reports:

Download the full report, Green data centers and the imperative of sustainabilityCourtesy of Iron Mountain to study how climate change and sustainable data centers are transforming the industry.


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