Data centers play a crucial role in urban development
Data centers increase digitalization making it possible for many other industries to achieve greater levels of sustainability. A requirement for their implementation, however, is that the corresponding infrastructure is planned for at an early stage and reflects the current trend toward regionalization. However, in many places, these aspects are neglected in spatial planning.
The use of cloud services has increased by an average of ten percent per year in recent years. At the same time, the increasing use of 5G services, as well as IoT and edge computing, is driving steadily growing data volumes. According to the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability in Berlin, demand for computing power in data centers in Germany has increased by a factor of ten since 2010. The need for new data centers and more energy is accordingly large. The coalition government is already drawing conclusions from this: data center operators are to operate newly installed data centers in a climate-neutral manner by 2027, according to the coalition agreement.
Data centers offer several opportunities for more sustainability
Renewable energies alone, however, are not enough to achieve sustainability. It is crucial to temporarily store the electricity from renewable energies, e.g. in the data center, in order to be able to absorb the fluctuations typical for wind power and solar energy. Another important step is not to let the waste heat from the cooling systems escape into the environment, but to use it to heat the company’s own offices and neighboring buildings. Especially sustainable are brownfield approaches, in which fallow land in structurally weak areas is converted – for example, a former industrial area.
Data center infrastructure as an integral part of spatial planning
Often, however, the necessary infrastructure is lacking, for instance to connect the data centers with potential consumers of the waste heat. In order to be able to implement corresponding initiatives, data centers must be built where users are located. Those responsible must also designate appropriate areas and include data centers in the planning of industrial, commercial and residential areas from the very beginning.
Yet urban planners often neglect data centers and the infrastructure they require in land-use planning . It is therefore important that the stakeholders in building authorities, committees and urban planning offices, as well as those responsible for economic development, recognize the connection between digitization and sustainability and work together to initiate appropriate processes.
Remote work trend requires greater regionalization
Up to now, data centers have been clustered mainly at hubs, but suitable space has become a scarce commodity, especially in city centers. Power is also not available in endless supply. In view of the remote work trend and the resulting cloud usage, there is also a need for a more regional digital infrastructure – away from the conurbations and towards smaller towns and cities. The proximity of a data center ensures robust fiber-optic networks and thus stable Internet usage, from which not only residents benefit. A well-developed infrastructure also has a pull effect on companies.
Further information and the entire German article by Herbert Radlinger, Managing Director at NDC-GARBE can be found HERE.