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Tuesday, 15 February 2011 12:37

Nabers promises more than data centre hot air

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A tool which will produce an energy star rating for Australian data centres will be trialled in 33 facilities this month.

The tool which has been developed by Nabers (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) will provide a star rating of one to five with 2.5 being the industry average, and 5 stars being the most efficient possible. Speaking at Cebit's Future Proofing your Data Centre conference in Sydney this week Andrew McEachern, manager of data centres for the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) and a member of the technical advisory group for Nabers, said that the final tool should be available by November.

Both Mr McEachern and Telstra's managed data centre general manager Jon Curry, who also spoke at the conference, expressed concern at the impact that an Emissions Trading System (ETS) could have on Australian data centres. Both believed an ETS was inevitable in the future.

'With an ETS coming in the more efficient the data centres are, the easier it is to mitigate the risk,' said Mr McEachern. He said that Australian data centres were responsible for 1.5 per cent of energy usage in Australia. That compared to a figure of about 2 per cent internationally and was on a par with the energy usage of the airline sector.

The Nabers tool which will allow data centres to properly rate their energy efficiency has been developed by the NSW DECCW and the Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

It will however only provide insight regarding power use and will not examine water efficiency. Data centres are nevertheless big users of water for cooling systems, and to flush the drains in cooling towers.

Mr McEachern said that water usage measurement; 'would be on our radar after we get this part of the project up.' He acknowledged 'it's a little bit too hard at the moment.'

In often drought prone Australia data centre water usage can be a significant issue. As Telstra's Mr Curry noted: 'The Sydney facility uses 155,000 litres of water a day.'


Although aware of the need to reduce water wastage Mr Curry said that at present; 'the cost benefit for Telstra does not stand up.' It therefore appears that water is priced such that it is cheaper to waste than conserve.

'In Melbourne 70,000 litres of water is flushed down the drain each week,' he explained, to flush the drains in the data centre cooling towers. He said flush water in had now been redirected into a reserve tank.

'But we have not got a reserve tank in Sydney so we used 80-90,000 litres of fresh water to flush the drains in the cooling towers.'

Mr McEachern said that the energy rating Nabers tool would be made available free of charge, but that to claim a star rating companies would need to have their Nabers rating awarded by an accredited consultant.

While use of the tool would not be mandated Mr McEachern told iTWire that there would likely be a range of business drivers encouraging its adoption. For example commercial data centres might seek to telegraph to the market that they had achieved four or five star ratings.

He hoped the follow up Nabers water efficiency rating would be available within two years.


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