Written by Eamonn Ryan
Pär Johansson, business development director for Systemair Group, speaking to RACA Journal at the Pan-African Data Centres exhibition and conference in June, sheds light on the company’s role in the data centre market, specifically in providing cooling and ventilation solutions.
As data centres become increasingly crucial in today’s digital landscape, the need for efficient cooling systems is paramount. The Swedish company boasts expertise in supplying data centres with reliable and sustainable cooling solutions, addressing factors such as power consumption, water usage, location, and the importance of striking a balance between economic and environmental considerations.
“Our solutions cover a wide range of requirements, including cooling and ventilating office spaces, UPS rooms, and white space areas. With a diverse portfolio of technologies, we offer practical solutions, direct and indirect free cooling solutions, and a variety of heat exchangers, including both wet and dry types. This range enables us to provide the best-suited cooling solution for each unique data centre,” says Johansson.
He notes that unlike regular office buildings that operate during specific hours, data centres are differentiated by requiring round-the-clock operation. Therefore, data centre owners prioritise reliable and energy-efficient cooling systems. “We understand the critical nature of uninterrupted cooling in data centres and emphasise sustainability through energy-efficient solutions that minimise power consumption, thereby reducing operational costs and environmental impact. By employing advanced technologies, our cooling systems deliver continuous performance while maintaining optimal energy efficiency.”
Johansson describes several important factors when selecting cooling solutions. “The primary considerations include power consumption and water usage. For regions where water usage is limited, there are water-free solutions, while in areas like Sweden, water-based solutions are viable. Another factor to consider is the space required for the cooling system within the technical room. Our solutions are optimised to maximise space utilisation while providing efficient cooling capabilities. Additionally, the carbon footprint is increasingly relevant, prompting data centre owners to consider eco-friendly solutions. To this end, we incorporate environmentally responsible components into our data centre cooling systems.
“The location of a data centre plays a significant role in determining the placement of cooling components. Urban data centres often prefer to have cooling plants either inside or nearby buildings to minimise sound emissions and address logistical challenges. In contrast, data centres in greenfield areas have more flexibility in terms of cooling plant placement. Factors such as connectivity, power availability, and security influence the decision-making process, ensuring optimal efficiency and performance,” says Johansson.
THE WATER USAGE DEBATE
Water consumption in data centres has been a subject of debate in recent years. While water is essential for cooling purposes, concerns have been raised about its sustainability. Johansson offers insights into water management in data centres: “The overall amount of water on Earth remains constant, as it cycles through natural processes such as evaporation and precipitation. Furthermore, water used in data centres can be treated and recycled for other purposes, contributing to a more sustainable approach.
“We are continuously engaged in research and development to enhance the efficiency and performance of cooling systems. Globally, the industry is witnessing a drive towards designing units that minimise pressure drop. This is particularly important for air cooling systems, where every Pascal (Pa) counts. By implementing innovative designs that can reduce pressure drop by as little as 10 Pa, significant energy savings can be achieved. Furthermore, the increasing density within data centres necessitates the use of liquid cooling for high-performance computing and specific applications,” he adds.
Systemair’s distinctive approach is rooted in sustainability, considering the holistic impact of their solutions. With ESD (Enterprise and Supplier Development) contracts in place and a strong focus on sustainable practices, the company aims to run its factories on green energy, utilising solar panels and sea water heat pumps. It similarly works closely with suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint, establishing themselves as sustainable partners. These values align with global companies’ expectations, making the HVAC company an appealing choice for data centre operators who prioritise sustainability.
“While price remains a significant consideration for many, the importance of sustainability is growing in the data centre industry. Operators, especially those associated with global companies, prioritise sustainability due to regulatory requirements and investor expectations in their home countries. When seeking investments for data centre construction, investment firms closely examine the ESD contracts and the impact on the environment. Therefore, any HVAC company’s commitment to sustainability becomes a vital aspect in securing funding and partnerships,” says Johansson.
FUTURE PROSPECTS IN AFRICA
“Africa presents promising opportunities for the data centre market, with significant growth expected across the continent. The region’s demographics, characterised by a young and tech-savvy population, combined with the rapid adoption of mobile devices, predicate a surge in African data centre demand. Moreover, the establishment of subsea cables connecting Africa with Europe, the Middle East, and the US paves the way for increased connectivity. To leverage these opportunities, reliable power infrastructure is crucial. Africa’s abundant solar resources offer a viable solution for powering data centres, creating a favourable environment for growth,” he adds.
Johansson says Systemair is at the forefront of delivering efficient and sustainable cooling solutions with its focus on reducing pressure drop, adapting to liquid cooling technologies, and embracing sustainability – all of which resonate with data centre operators who prioritise environmental responsibility. By combining technological advancements with a commitment to sustainability, the company aims to play a vital role in shaping the future of data centres in Africa.