How much energy do data centers consume? (2022)

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High energy consumption continues to be an issue in the data center, but organizations are moving to energy-efficient systems to manage and reduce their power usage.

Data centers are among the highest consumers of electric power. Studies have shown that data center energy consumption continues to increase annually, with two identifiable trends.

The first trend is that mainstream legacy corporate data centers continue to be major consumers of power, despite many organizations migrating systems and hardware to cloud environments. But, while average use is increasing steadily, it's doing so at a lower rate than perhaps 20 years ago when cloud data centers were emerging as a major alternative to legacy facilities.

The other trend is that, while large cloud data centers, often called hyperscale centers, are steadily increasing their power usage, they're balancing that increase by investing in green initiatives, such as energy-efficient equipment. They're also revamping supporting systems such as HVAC, security and lighting.

Estimates on global data center energy usage

The following paragraphs provide estimates and forecasts of data center energy consumption in the U.S. The data reinforces the importance of using energy-efficient equipment in data centers.

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(Video) How Data Centers Impact the Environment

The "United States Data Center Energy Usage Report," published in June 2016 and supported by the Federal Energy Management Program of the U.S. Department of Energy, examined data center power usage back to the year 2000, presented analyses of how power usage has increased and offered forecasts of power usage in the early part of the current decade.

In 2014, data centers in the U.S. consumed an estimated 70 billion kWh [kilowatt-hours], representing about 1.8% of total U.S. electricity consumption. Current study results show data center electricity consumption increased by about 4% from 2010-2014, a large shift from the 24% percent increase estimated from 2005-2010 and the nearly 90% increase estimated from 2000-2005. Energy use is expected to continue slightly increasing in the near future, increasing 4% from 2014-2020, the same rate as the past five years. Based on current trend estimates, U.S. data centers are projected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020.

A more recent analysis of data center energy consumption patterns was published by Statista Inc. on Sept. 30, 2021. The report, "Global Data Centers Energy Demand by Type 2015-2021" by Nane Sönnichsen, found the following:

Traditional data centers globally have decreased their energy demand, from around 97.6 terawatt-hours in 2015, to some 50 terawatt-hours in 2019, and a forecast indicated that this figure will reach nearly 33 terawatt-hours by 2021. On the other hand, hyperscale data centers have doubled their energy demand in the same period of time.

(Video) Energy Consumption of Data Centers

The report also provided a year-by-year forecast of data center usage in three categories: traditional data centers, non-hyperscale cloud data centers and hyperscale cloud data centers.

How much energy do data centers consume? (2)

Traditional data center operators are typically concerned with maximizing output and performance, often ignoring the power implications. For large organizations, the need for increased computing power often resulted in building additional data centers, significantly increasing energy consumption. The earlier years shown in the table above reflect this trend.

However, the availability of significant computing resources without the need for floor space fueled the trend of shutting down legacy data centers and moving operations to the cloud.

Non-hyperscale cloud data centers demonstrate their use of energy-efficient equipment and environmental systems by keeping their energy consumption steady. Large, hyperscale cloud data centers have steadily increased their energy usage and effectively managed it for the same reasons.

Interestingly, if the columns in the table above are added across, the total energy demand in 2015 is 190.7 terawatt-hours, while the estimate demand for 2021 is 190.8 TWh. Again, this reflects how energy-efficient equipment and green data center operations keep energy costs under control.

Why do data centers consume so much energy?

There are many types of equipment in a typical data center, virtually all of which need electricity. This figure depicts the various kinds of energy-consuming devices, not to mention overhead lighting, found in a typical data center.

How much energy do data centers consume? (3)

Older servers and network communications equipment consume more power than newer and more energy-efficient systems. Each of the above elements can be updated with newer systems that reduce electricity demand.

(Video) How are data centers powered sustainably?

How is data center energy consumption being addressed?

Organizations regularly pursue numerous activities to improve data center energy efficiency and to reduce energy demand. These initiatives are generally bundled under the term green data centers. The following are green data center activities, with a focus on cloud data centers:

  • Energy efficiency. Energy-efficiency improvements used by cloud vendors include using eco-friendly power sources, reducing carbon footprints, contracting with power-generation utilities to supply green energy, regularly measuring power usage effectiveness and having documented plans and time frames to become carbon-negative and remove all carbon from the environment.
  • Use of renewable energy. Wind and solar energy are among the most frequently used sources of renewable energy by cloud vendors. Renewable energy sources can be wholly owned and managed by the cloud vendor or obtained through contracts with renewable energy providers.
  • Eco-friendly data center buildings. Design and construction of current and future cloud data center buildings typically conform to current design specifications for energy-efficient building construction.
  • Data center site selection. Sites should be selected to minimize risk from factors such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Cloud vendors access low-cost energy and reliable telecommunications infrastructure sources to maximize energy efficiency.
  • HVAC management. Energy-efficient cooling systems, as part of the typical HVAC suite of systems, are carefully managed for energy consumption. Temperature, humidity and heat load -- a byproduct of energy consumption -- are monitored and managed to optimize operational conditions. Additional issues to consider include the local climate and compliance with local, state and federal regulations.
  • Protection from fire and water damage. Water detection devices are located at strategic places in data centers to notify operators of water leaks or flooding. Fire and smoke detection devices and their associated suppression -- such as FM-200 discharge and wet-pipe and dry-pipe water systems -- assets are located throughout the data center and its adjoining work areas, conference rooms, food service areas and utility rooms.
  • Infrastructure energy efficiency. Cloud data centers typically use commercial power and telecommunications resources from utility companies. Cloud vendors often have policies and procedures to assess the eco-friendliness of utility providers.

Data center power consumption going forward

Data center power consumption will continue to increase in the coming years. This trend is fueled in part by the continued popularity of cloud data centers, which are among the largest consumers of energy today. Managing energy consumption will be a major ongoing activity for data centers using technology such as energy-efficient HVAC systems, equipment racks with cooling systems, and energy-efficient doors and windows.

How much energy do data centers consume? (4)

The U.S. data center industry isn't the only advocate of green data centers. One example of a major initiative is the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, which aims to have data centers in Europe climate-neutral by 2030. The pact also supports the European Green Deal, which has the goal of making Europe climate-neutral by 2050.

Dig Deeper on Data center design and facilities

FAQs

How much energy do data centres consume? ›

Globally, data transmission networks consumed 260-340 TWh in 20214, or 1.1-1.4% of global electricity use.

What percentage of energy is used by data centers? ›

Currently, many experts estimate that data storage and transmission in and from data centers use 1% of global electricity.

How much power do you need for a data center? ›

The Real Amount of Energy A Data Center Uses. In 2020, the data center industry consumed around 196 to 400 terawatt-hours (TWh). This is equivalent to 1% to 2% of worldwide annual data center energy consumption. According to another analysis, data centers in the European Union alone will require 104 TWh in 2020.

Do data centres use a lot of energy? ›

It's the first time the centres have used more electricity than rural homes in the country, which is becoming one of Europe's capitals for data.

Why do data centers consume so much power? ›

Why do data centers consume so much energy? There are many types of equipment in a typical data center, virtually all of which need electricity. This figure depicts the various kinds of energy-consuming devices, not to mention overhead lighting, found in a typical data center.

Why do data centres consume a lot of energy? ›

The International Energy Agency estimates that 1% of all global electricity is used by data centers and that by 2025, data centers will consume 1/5 of the world's power supply. The majority of the energy demand comes from powering the servers, but they in turn produce heat and need to be cooled.

What consumes the most energy in a data center? ›

On average, servers and cooling systems account for the greatest shares of direct electricity use in data centers, followed by storage drives and network devices (Figure 1).

How much energy do data centres use worldwide? ›

Rapid improvements in energy efficiency have, however, helped limit energy demand growth from data centres and data transmission networks, which each account for about 1-1.5% of global electricity use.

How much energy does IT take to store data? ›

If you search for information about data energy usage, then you're likely to find studies that state that transmitting and storing one gigabyte of data consumes 7 kilowatt hours (kWh), or 3.9 kWh or 0.06 kWh: a huge variance.

How are data centres powered? ›

Most of this power is supplied through the grid, though all data centres will also have long term backup generators that are designed to come on if the main power source fails – these generators are usually petrol or diesel-powered.

How much energy do computer servers use? ›

Globally, data centers were estimated to use between 196 terawatt hours (TWh) (Masanet et al, 2020) and 400 TWh (Hintemann, 2020) in 2020. This would mean data centers consume between 1-2% of global electricity demand. However, this could be higher.

How much power does a data center use per square foot? ›

A data center designed for 200 W per square foot can support an average rack density of about 5 kW.

How do you measure the efficiency of a data center? ›

Top Data Center Efficiency Metrics:

PUE is determined by dividing the amount of power entering a data center by the power used to run the computer infrastructure within it. PUE is expressed as a ratio, with overall efficiency improving as the quotient decreases towards 1.

How much energy does IT take to store data? ›

If you search for information about data energy usage, then you're likely to find studies that state that transmitting and storing one gigabyte of data consumes 7 kilowatt hours (kWh), or 3.9 kWh or 0.06 kWh: a huge variance.

How many megawatts does a data center use? ›

Some of the world's largest data centers can each contain many tens of thousands of IT devices and require more than 100 megawatts (MW) of power capacity—enough to power around 80,000 U.S. households (U.S. DOE 2020).

How much power does a data center use per square foot? ›

A data center designed for 200 W per square foot can support an average rack density of about 5 kW.

How much power does an Amazon data center use? ›

Datacenters make up 1% of the world's energy consumption, amounting to about 200 terawatt hours of energy a day. AWS engineers cite research showing that broad adoption of C and Rust could at least half computing energy consumption.

How do data centers get energy? ›

Most data centers get their primary electricity from the wider municipal electric grid. The facility will then either have one or several transformers in place to take in the energy, while also ensuring the power coming in is of the right voltage and the right type of current (converted from AC to DC typically).

How much CO2 is in a GB of data? ›

And according to the Department of Energy the average US power plant expends 600 grams of carbon dioxide for every kWh generated. That means that transferring 1GB of data produces 3kg of CO2. Let that settle in for a moment. Each GB of data you download results in 3kg of CO2 emissions.

How much energy does 1GB of data use? ›

Reviewing the academic literature on the energy consumption of internet data, we found that figures varied from the lowest of 0.004 kWh/GB to 136 kWh/GB.

What is a 1 MW data center? ›

For context, 1 megawatt can power about 700 homes. Sustaining 72 megawatts per hour in one data center campus, the equivalent of over 50,000 homes, is a tremendous feat—albeit, one that may become increasingly common in the years ahead.

Who owns the largest data center in the world? ›

According to numerous publications, the world's largest data center is the China Telecom-Inner Mongolia Information Park. At a cost of $3 billion, it spans one million square meters (10,763,910 square feet) and consumes 150MW across six data halls.

What voltage do data centers use? ›

Typically, 480V three-phase power enters a data center and is converted to 208V/120V.

How many kW is a data center? ›

However, almost two-thirds of data centers in the US experience higher peak demands, with a power density of around 15 or 16 kW per rack. Some data centers may hit 20 or more kW per rack.

How much power does a 42U rack consume? ›

As many as 60 blade servers can be placed in a standard height 42U rack. However this condensed computing comes with a power price. The typical power demand (power and cooling) for this configuration is more than 4,000 watts compared to a full rack of 1U servers at 2,500 watts.

How much electricity do servers use? ›

Servers usually come with a single or two-socket. A single-socket server consumes 118W and a two-socket server 365W. Each server runs at a different capacity, depending on the load we put on them.

How much energy do data centres use worldwide? ›

Rapid improvements in energy efficiency have, however, helped limit energy demand growth from data centres and data transmission networks, which each account for about 1-1.5% of global electricity use.

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