The Energy-Saving Potential of Air-Side Economisers in Modular Data Centres: Analysis of Opportunities and Risks in Different Climates

Badiei, Ali orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2103-2955, Jadowski, Eric, Sadati, Saba, Beizaee, Arash, Li, Jing, Khajenoori, Leila orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1632-2296, Nasriani, Hamid Reza orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9556-7218, Li, Guiqiang and Xiao, Xin (2023) The Energy-Saving Potential of Air-Side Economisers in Modular Data Centres: Analysis of Opportunities and Risks in Different Climates. Sustainability, 15 (14).

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This study examines the feasibility of utilising outside air for ‘free cooling’ in modular data centres through the implementation of an air-side economiser, as an alternative to traditional mechanical cooling systems. The objective is to offset the energy consumption associated with cooling by leveraging the natural cooling capacity of the ambient air. To investigate this potential, a 90-kW modular data centre is employed as the base case for model validation and analysis of energy reduction possibilities. The research employs dynamic thermal modelling techniques to assess the efficacy of the air-side economiser in four distinct climatic zones: Stockholm, Dubai, San Francisco, and Singapore, representing diverse worldwide climates. The model is meticulously calibrated and validated using power usage effectiveness (PUE) values obtained from the Open Compute Project. Simulation runs are conducted to evaluate the energy-reduction potential achievable with the air-side economiser compared to conventional mechanical air-conditioning systems. The results indicate significant energy reductions of up to 86% in moderate climates, while minimal reductions are observed in dry and hot climates. This comprehensive analysis offers valuable insights into the intricate relationship between modular data centres, their operational characteristics, and the viability of employing air-side economisers for free cooling and energy efficiency across different climatic conditions. The contribution of this publication to this field of science lies in its exploration of the practicality and energy-saving potential of air-side economisers in modular data centres. By utilising dynamic thermal modelling and empirical validation, this study provides evidence-based insights into the effectiveness of this cooling strategy, shedding light on its applicability in various climates. The findings contribute to the understanding of energy-efficient cooling solutions in data-centre design and operation, paving the way for more sustainable practices in the field.

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