Market Insight

Hyperscale data center owners are driving growth of renewable energy in data centers

February 13, 2018

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Following is information and insight from IHS Markit about renewable energy usage and options for data centers. 


  • Between 2 percent and 3 percent of developed countries’ electricity consumption is currently attributed to data centers. For most data centers, the largest operational cost is the electricity used for cooling.
  • Onsite generation is the ideal way to implement renewable energy in data centers. The two most popular renewable energy methods are solar and wind power, due to their high-energy production and relative ease of implementation.
  • Offsite renewable energy sources — primarily utility companies and renewable energy suppliers — are typically the easiest way for data centers to obtain renewable energy. Offsite generation removes the large upfront capital expenses to produce onsite renewable energy and the geographical limitations of renewable energy production methods.
  • Although small data centers have a distinct advantage in using onsite options, owners of hyperscale data centers (i.e., Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook) are driving the growth of renewable energy for data centers.

Our analysis

Both internal and external forces motivate data center operators to seek renewable energy sources. Internally, they are driven by potential energy cost savings or internal sustainability policies. Externally, they are motivated by their customers’ desires for companies to have environmentally friendly practices or tax incentives or subsidies from governments.

While existing data centers will likely continue to use methods like renewable energy credits (RECs) that do not require an onsite source of renewable energy, with the increased interest in renewable energy onsite generation of renewable energy is likely to become a bigger criteria for data center design. The location of the data center will increase in importance, because the biggest hurdle to having local renewable energy is whether or not facility is located in an ideal climate to generate renewable energy.

The next biggest factor for using renewable energy are the technology and designs inside the data center, which allow facilities to store energy more efficiently and reduce their overall energy consumption. As these technologies continue to advance and develop, data center operator interest will grow. The large upfront cost to decrease their energy usage by investing in these technologies and renewable energy, in general, will reduce the operational expense of powering data centers. As a result, IHS Markit expects to see customers willing to pay more for products and accessories that allow their data centers to be more efficient.

In addition to the “Renewable Energy in Data Centers Report,” which is available to paid subscribers, IHS Markit offers this free downloadable ebook, “Powering Data Centers with Renewable Energy."


Renewable Energy in Data Centers

This report provides a general overview of the use of renewable energy in data centers. It includes the current application of renewable energy in data centers, including a survey of how hyperscale data center operators are employing renewable energy. It also covers emerging products and techniques being developed in tandem with increased renewable energy adoption in the data center market.

Research by Market
Enterprise & IT
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