Energy Efficiency

CenturyLink Touts Data Center Energy Lead

CenturyLink is planning to lead the telecom sector when it comes to energy-efficient data centers and it signaled that effort today by joining the US government's Better Buildings Challenge and pledging to cut non-IT load energy consumption in its US data centers by 25% by 2023.

Bill Gast, director of global data center energy efficiency at CenturyLink, was brought into the company two years ago, with the specific mandate to make its data centers leaders in sustainability and energy efficiency. He tells Light Reading in an interview that CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) believes it is going where its fellow telecom operators have not yet gone and is determined to lead the industry. To be fair, AT&T and Sprint both have engagement with the Better Buildings Challenge as well, as have other data center companies, but Gast says CenturyLink is pushing harder to institute change across its entire data center footprint.

"It's all about leadership -- leadership in energy and sustainability," he says. "We have a number of competitors out there who put a toe in the water. They've said 'We are not going to do the full Better Buildings Challenge, we are going to do one facility.' We decided we were just going to take the plunge and be responsible and be a leader. And that is what this is all about. This is our whole portfolio -- we don't have any peers that have done this."

Stay up-to-date on data center strategies including infrastructure in the data center connectivity section of our Data Center page here on Light Reading.

The early efforts include two innovations which were industry firsts for CenturyLink: Its "chiller-in-a-box" approach to building its Columbus, Ohio, data center and its deployment of Bloom fuel cell technology in a multi-tenant data center in Irvine, Calif.

Chiller-in-a-box takes all the parts of a chilled water plant and puts it on a smaller footprint that is the same size as an air-cooled chiller, while the Bloom Energy Servers generate electricity through a clean electrochemical process using air and natural gas. Both solutions are more efficient and sustainable than previous approaches. CenturyLink also implemented Oasis Indirect Evaporative Cooling in its Boston data center and built a Washington data center near the Columbia River to gain partial power from hydroelectric power.

The chiller-in-a-box system effectively packages state-of-the-art technology into something that can be more easily deployed at existing data centers without requiring massive construction or downtimes.

All of this taken together is part of the leadership mandate in making the most power-hungry part of CenturyLink's operations -- its data centers -- into more efficient operations, Gast says. There are many day-to-day efforts as well, in some cases taking equipment out of service earlier than normal if it can be replaced cost effectively with more energy-efficient gear.

One outgrowth of the Better Buildings Challenge for CenturyLink will be third-party verification of the energy-efficiency efforts, through EnergyStar ratings for its buildings. That is something the company can show potential customers for a possible competitive advantage, he adds.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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