Equinix Continues to Progress on Green Data Center Initiatives

Liam Rose
Equinix Continues to Progress on Green Data Center Initiatives


Today Greenpeace announced the findings of its new report, “Clicking Green: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet” in which the organization analyzes how Internet companies including Equinix are faring in deploying green initiatives and renewable energy to offset the potential environmental impact of running the global Internet. As the largest data center colocation provider with over 100 data centers worldwide, Equinix is uniquely positioned to make positive changes in designing and running facilities in ways that save energy and promote environmental sustainability.

In the report, Greenpeace rates Equinix favorably in the area of “Transparency” and average on “Energy Efficiency & Mitigation.” Specifically, the report states, “Equinix has recently taken a big stride in its energy transparency. With plans for a new green web portal, Equinix will provide a snapshot of its energy demand and related greenhouse gas footprint, as well as electricity supply mix at a regional level. That makes Equinix by far the most transparent of the collocation providers.” The report goes on to state that, “Equinix has demonstrated in several of its newer facilities a range of strategies to improve efficiency or reduce the facilities’ energy and environmental footprint, including: fuel cells, solar, and green roofs.” Equinix believes that increasing the company’s transparency is the first step in influencing the larger marketplace.

Mark Adams, chief development officer, Equinix says, “Today’s digital economy relies heavily on electricity to physically power not only the devices that we all carry in our bags and pockets, but the Internet in which all these devices run on. It is our job as tech innovators to develop new, more efficient ways of using power globally. Equinix is at the heart of bringing together many of these technologies including the Internet, Cloud and the Internet of Things (IOT) – as such, we are committed to putting our new data centers on an aggressive path for efficiency improvement.”


Equinix and the Digital Economy

For more than 15 years, Equinix has been instrumental in the development and enablement of the Internet. Today businesses on five continents depend on Equinix to provide vital network connectivity and interconnection with other businesses to enable data to seamlessly flow throughout the globe 24/7. In many ways this connectivity is the lifeblood of global communications – largely built upon the Internet – which in turn powers the digital economy.

“For the estimated 2.5 billion people around the world who are connected to the Internet, it is impossible to imagine life without it. The Internet has rewoven the fabric of our daily lives – how we communicate with each other, work and entertain ourselves – and become a foundation of the global economy.” – Greenpeace

According to the Greenpeace report and the Cisco VNI Index, it is expected that the consumption of the Internet will accelerate as the global online population reaches 50 percent of the world’s projected population, moving from 2.3 billion in 2012 to an expected 3.6 billion people by 2017. The report also states that the rapid growth of the cloud and the use of the Internet have increased electricity demand.

Data centers – including wholesale and retail colocation – are at the heart of this demand. As large consumers of electricity, data centers rely on electricity to supply power to critical Internet infrastructure and maintain operational reliability to global enterprises, municipalities and communication networks that impact end-users around the globe. Network uptime is at the heart of running the Internet and as such, Equinix prides itself on its industry leading uptime of 99.999 percent reliability to its customers.

The good news is that running the Internet is getting greener. As it continues to expand and build data centers around the world, Equinix has developed sustainability best practices which are increasingly being adopted in new builds.


Green Initiatives

Energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are a primary focus for Equinix as it continues to expand its data center footprint, whether building new data centers or upgrading existing facilities. The company has implemented new practices to reduce its environmental footprint. With a global carbon footprint of 870,000 metrics tons CO2 in 2013 (55% Americas, 24% Asia Pacific, 22% Europe) Equinix invests in measures to reduce our energy consumption and carbon footprint. Since 2011, Equinix’s environmental programs have helped it avoid the equivalent of nearly 50,000 metric tons in CO2 emissions which is the equivalent of taking almost 10,000 cars off the road for a year.

Every Equinix data center uses technology and techniques that reduce its environmental footprint. Equinix data centers meet global environmental and energy management standards, and the company’s worldwide headquarters in California’s Silicon Valley has earned LEED® Gold Certification. Additionally, Equinix met over 25 percent of its global electricity requirements in 2013 through renewable energy purchases. That’s on top of any renewable energy distributed through the power grid from our utilities and energy suppliers. Equinix purchased certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) and guarantees of origin (GoOs) and also used local green power at some sites.

Equinix has increased its commitments to renewable energy in line with various government policies while also balancing energy costs and customer requirements. In fact, it uses 100 percent renewable energy to power its data centers in Europe. The company is also actively evaluating various renewable energy or other offset options around the world with the goal of establishing appropriate short and long term strategies.

Equinix constantly evaluates the energy efficiency of its data centers, and adopts proven energy-saving technologies or techniques on a global scale. For instance, systems that reduce power use by actively monitoring air flow are becoming standard technologies in its data centers, as are controls that optimize cold aisle temperature, chiller efficiency, chilled water flow and modern lighting systems. These and other green operational practices have helped Equinix decrease its energy usage by approximately 10,000 kilowatts annually-enough to power more than 8,000 U.S. homes for a year.

Green technologies deployed globally include:

  • Adaptive control systems that reduce power consumption and increase cooling capacity through active airflow management using intelligent, distributed sensors and innovative control policies.
  • ASHRAE thermal guidelines are used as reference in our newest facilities to optimize interior temperatures. This reduces power consumption for cooling, while maintaining a safe operating temperature for computing equipment.
  • Cold/hot aisle containment uses physical barriers to reduce the mixing of cold air in data center supply aisles with the hot air in their exhaust aisles. This results in lower energy consumption and more efficient cooling.
  • Energy-efficient lighting systems in our data centers use motion-activated controls to reduce energy consumption and ambient heat from operating lights.
  • Variable frequency drives are deployed in chillers, pumps and fans in our HVAC systems to save energy by automatically reducing a motor’s speed and power draw to match lower system loads.

Finally, Equinix has established a target of 1.45 or lower for the company’s design average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), putting new data centers on a strong trajectory for efficiency improvement.


Data Center Footprint Innovation

When Equinix designs and builds new data centers, it reduces energy use and shrinks the carbon footprint by taking advantage of unique site conditions. The examples below describe green technologies deployed at select data centers.

  • Deep lake water cooling – Equinix’s Toronto data center – TR1 – reduces power consumption by using the city’s Deep Lake Water Cooling (DLWC) system to draw water from the chilly depths of Lake Ontario to cool buildings in downtown Toronto, including our data center. This novel approach reduces total energy needs by 50 percent or more.
  • Aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) – The ATES system at Equinix’s Amsterdam data center – AM3 – uses cold groundwater to help chill air on the colocation floor, eliminating the need for traditional mechanical cooling. When temperatures rise above 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit), the ATES system kicks in to keep equipment cool. At other times of the year, AM3 relies on free-air cooling. Excess heat generated by customer’s IT equipment is also used to help warm nearby buildings.
  • Thermally enhanced design – Equinix’s Silicon Valley data center – SV5 – incorporates techniques from state-of-the-art refrigeration systems to significantly reduce the power needed to cool the colocation floor. The system uses efficient direct expansion coils, lower fan power through air management approaches and an innovative evaporative condensing system that is more efficient than conventional air-cooled condensers.
  • Direct and indirect economization – In Equinix data centers around the world, it has deployed air and fluid economizers to provide “free cooling” to our colocation space, maintaining temperatures within acceptable ranges while lowering energy consumption. Its economization systems reduce or sometimes eliminate the need to run mechanical cooling systems, which contribute significantly to the energy footprint of any data center. The types of economizers deployed-direct or indirect, air or fluid (usually water or glycol)-depend on local climate conditions and data center space constraints.
  • Granular temperature control systems – Equinix’s Singapore data center – SG1 – has been retrofitted with a granular temperature control system that has improved the facility’s PUE by 15 percent. Based on SG1’s impressive results, this control system is now being installed at several other Equinix data centers, including facilities in Chicago, Hong Kong, Silicon Valley and Sydney.
  • Green rooftops – By covering roofs with plants and vegetation at AM3 and Equinix’s Zurich data center (ZH5), the company lowered cooling costs and reduced storm water runoff, which is associated with flooding and the nutrient pollution of nearby lakes and rivers.

Points of Clarification – at the time the Greenpeace report went to print, the following statements were inaccurately reported:

  • Data centers in the U.S. (page 39) – Equinix does not have a data center facility located in North Carolina
  • Clean Energy Index – Equinix (page 75) – Switzerland should be listed as 100% RE, 0%NG, 0%Nuc, 0%Coal based on Equinix’s green power contract with its utility provider
  • Appendix 2: Equinix (page 50) – “Equinix does not currently have energy efficiency… targets to guide its growth” – reference PUE design target and LEED Silver target


Continue reading about the Equinix Green by Design website, Equinix Green Awards or Equinix Green Certifications.

Subscribe to the Equinix Blog