This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Plan for Power

15 March 2007

Finding suitable sites for new data centres in the UK is like looking for 'a needle in a haystack'. Charlotte Eddington describes how all location decision for data centres are now affected by shortages of power, access to fibre networks and planning constraints

LAST YEAR SAW THE BEST YEAR FOR DATA CENTRE take up since the original telecoms boom of the late 1990's. Corporate demand has dominated take up and within Europe, London has been the most active market. This healthy demand for space is expected to continue during 2007 and as this demand increases, the lack of available space becomes an increasingly topical issue.

The pressure is not only on the Carrier Neutral Hotel market. Corporate requirements often cannot be fulfilled within existing data centres, either due to technical, security or space constraints. As a result, demand for custombuilt data centres continues to be high. Corporates are looking to acquire either existing buildings that can be converted for data centre use or sites where new data centers can be constructed. Niche data centre developers and corporates are, therefore, frantically searching for suitable property.

Power crisis
A recent study published by BroadGroup consultants indicates that a crisis is looming for the UK data centre market in relation to the requirement for power. According to the study, the average energy costs of running a corporate UK data centre are likely to double over the next five years. This rise in costs is likely to make the UK the most expensive place in Europe to run a data centre. When this issue is coupled with the recognized phenomenon of global climate change, the implications on large energy users is not insignificant.

The Government has realized that if it is to meet its carbon reduction targets, high level energy users will need to be penalised and forced to become more energy aware. The importance attributed to reducing energy use and the inclusion of clean technologies in new developments is, therefore, likely to continue and is expected to increase in significance in the long term.

There are a number of routes that can be taken by data centre managers in order to help to alleviate the power issues that they are facing:

1. Increase Energy Efficiency: If a data centre can use energy more efficiently, the reliance on the grid to provide huge amounts of power and the pressure on the environment is automatically alleviated. Various initiatives to improve energy efficiency such as HP's Smart Cooling and EMC's Energy Efficiency Tool mean that more options are becoming available for data centre managers. As technology vendors seize the opportunity being presented to them, it seems likely that the competition for such products is likely to increase and hence costs will fall, giving facilities managers more choice when it comes to selecting energy efficiency tools.

Building techniques should be employed that ensure the building runs efficiently from an energy perspective. This will ensure usage is kept to a minimum. In addition, a huge factor that must be considered carefully at the early stages of procurement is the amount of power and cooling that is actually going to be required. Over provisioning power and cooling is a common trend across the data centre world. If those designing data centres force themselves to think more carefully about how much power and cooling is actually going to be required and that the power is used as efficiently as possible, grid pressures can be alleviated and costs are likely to fall significantly.

Organisations will reap these benefits incrementally as they refresh their technology over its life cycle, and in some cases, the savings may encourage earlier refresh of equipment that may still be functional, but less efficient. Any legislation that is brought in to reduce energy use is also likely to be easier to meet if at the initial planning stage, data centres are designed as efficiently as possible.

2. Energy Procurement Solutions: The motivation for decreasing the reliance on the National Grid may not be solely cost, procurement and policy driven. Many corporate occupiers have other objectives driven by their Corporate and Social Responsibility policy and internal commitments towards the environment. This, combined with the planning authorities drive towards the inclusion of clean technologies in developments mean that it is imperative that corporates and data centre developers consider how they are going to cater for these requirements at an early stage.

Incorporating low carbon emissions technology or renewable energy self generation during the initial planning stage could help to reduce the reliance on the local electricity distribution network and increase the sustainability of the development in the future.

However, the different energy saving strategies must be comprehensively reviewed to ensure:
..the technology chosen is most suitable for the power requirements
..the plant costs are not prohibitively expensive compared to the payback in relation to electricity cost savings over the life of the project
..the technology is suitable for the development space available - energy saving plant is likely to be space hungry and therefore a sufficient area must be available
..the chosen scheme has a lifetime that his suitable for the project.

The inclusion of a clean technology may not be attractive at first glance, however the factors that tend to concern developers or corporates can often be overcome through strategic assessments.

Another avenue to consider is large scale energy investment. It seems logical if those that require large amounts of energy for their new developments work together to overcome the problem that is common to them all. By working with a strategic consultant, it may be possible to undertake a scheme that can feed into a number of data centre developments or that can be used to help contribute to the UK's clean generation. This would enable the investor to benefit from economies of scale and to utilize the most efficient technology. Such schemes can often provide a beneficial solution for a corporate from an economic, investment, strategic and policy perspective.

Often, the location of a new data centre is driven by the proximity to an existing facility. As this is the case, looking outside of the UK is often not an option. However, a full location analysis is something that is recommended at the conception stage to ensure that the most beneficial location is identified. Due to the high power prices and the increasing focus on climate change in the UK, other European locations could prove more beneficial from a cost perspective.

If location and energy issues are only approached at the planning submission stage, this is likely to cause economic and design issues. It is recommended that these issues are dealt with as early as feasibly possible in the procurement process and that an experienced consultant is used to address them from a strategic perspective. Timing is key to ensure that the most advantageous solution is delivered to meet both short and long term requirements.

Incorporating low carbon emissions technology or renewable energy self generation during the initial planning stage could help to reduce the reliance on the local electricity distribution network and increase the sustainability of the development in the future.

..Charlotte Eddington is Senior Surveyor, Global Corporate Services at CBRE

Print this page | E-mail this page