Microsoft, Meta, and Others Confront a Growing Threat of Drought to Their Data Centers

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Last Updated on November 17, 2022 by Bitfinsider

In the United States, drought conditions are deteriorating, and this is having a significant impact on the land used to host the internet.

Servers in data centers generate tremendous amounts of heat due to the enormous amount of energy they consume. Water is the most affordable and prevalent option for cooling the centers.

In a single day, the average data center uses 300,000 gallons of water to cool itself, which is equivalent to the water consumption of 100,000 homes, according to researchers at Virginia Tech. They also estimate that one out of every five data centers draws water from stressed watersheds, primarily in the western United States.

Kyle Myers, vice president of environmental health, safety & sustainability at CyrusOne, which owns and manages over 40 data centers in North America, Europe, and South America, stated, “There is risk if you’re relying on water.” “These data centers are designed to function for 20 years, so what will this area look like in 2040?”

CyrusOne was once a REIT, but was acquired by KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners this year. When the company relocated to the drought-stricken Phoenix area, it opted for an alternative, but more expensive, cooling system.

“That was our ‘aha’ moment, when we realized we had to make a decision. Myers stated, “We adjusted our design to achieve zero water consumption in order to avoid this sort of risk.”

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, realized the water risk in New Mexico and performed a pilot program on its Los Lunas data center to reduce relative humidity from 20% to 13%, thereby reducing water consumption. This has since been applied in all of its facilities.

According to the company’s website, one-fifth of Meta’s total water usage last year originated from regions regarded to be experiencing “water stress.” It aggressively restores water and last year set a target of restoring more water than it consumes by 2030, beginning in the west.

Microsoft has also committed to becoming “water-positive” by 2030.

“The good news is that we’ve spent years investing in continual innovation in this field so that we can recycle nearly all of the water we use in our data centers,” said Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith. “In rainy regions, like as the Pacific Northwest, where our headquarters is located in Seattle, we collect rainwater from the roof. In regions where it doesn’t rain like Arizona, we design condensation systems.”

Private equity funds in search of high-growth real estate are increasingly purchasing so-called co-location data centers, which are leased to several clients.

Currently, there are over 1,800 co-location data centers in the United States, and this figure is expanding as data centers are some of the hottest real estate in the country, delivering investors substantial profits. However, the risk of drought is increasing. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, over 60 percent of the lower 48 states are experiencing drought conditions. This represents a 9 percent increase from one month ago. Large portions of the west and midwest are experiencing “extreme” drought.

“We must innovate to escape the climate disaster. Smith continued, “The better we innovate, the cheaper it becomes, and the quicker we’ll meet our climate goals.”


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