There’s still a sizable distance between sustainability sentiment and corporate action. Innovative green technology—including energy-efficient supercomputers, low-emissions datacenters, computational fluid dynamics simulations, and circular design—are helping to close that gap.
Consider the statistics. Two-thirds of executives surveyed in the Deloitte 2022 CxO Sustainability Report say they are “very concerned” about climate change, with 79% seeing the world at a tipping point—up from 59% in 2021. Though concern is trending upward, only 19% of those surveyed say they are employing most of the strategies known to “move the needle.”
Needle-moving actions include developing climate-friendly products or services and setting sustainability criteria for suppliers and partners. Here we explore four key examples of green technology implementations across sectors, from IT to finance to energy, that can have a significant impact on sustainability.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed the UK’s largest academic supercomputer to solve complex problems, including designing nuclear fusion reactors to address the energy crisis.
“This really revolutionizes what our researchers can do,” said Dr. Paul Calleja, Director of Research Computing Services at the University of Cambridge. The University’s system, which consumes 100 racks in its datacenter and consists of 2,500 servers, can support more than 3,000 academics and 700 research projects around the world.
Equally notable is that the system was built to double the energy efficiency while providing five times the simulation capability and 20 times the AI performance of the previous platform.
“It has enabled us to have the third most energy efficient supercomputer in the world as ranked in [a recent] International Green 500 Competition,” said Calleja who describes the configuration as a heterogeneous cluster built using GPUs on one HDR 200 InfiniBand fabric. “It’s very difficult to get one-size-fits-all now because different problems require different solutions. By working with Dell, we can mix those solutions in a single system.”
While traditional HPC systems consume 20 to 30 megawatts of power, Calleja sees this rate as “not sustainable,” and that’s part of what’s driving his team to “look at how we can lower the power footprint” of supercomputers.
Reduce Datacenter Emissions
Participants in the UN 2021 climate change conference in Glasgow underscored the critical role of corporations and financial institutions in accelerating the pathway to net-zero. Some financial institutions are now working to accelerate sustainability within their operations—including modern approaches to energy-consuming datacenters.
One bank, BNP Paribas, is future-proofing its HPC infrastructure by relocating a third of its Grid Computing Datacenters capacity to Iceland. BNP Paribas, a globally recognized leader in capital markets, securities services, financing, treasury, and advisory solutions, operates in 56 countries and serves 18,000 clients.
The datacenter move may be just in time. Researchers with Huawei Technologies Sweden projected that, considering the rapid growth of cloud computing, datacenters could consume 8% of global electricity by 2030.
“By moving datacenter operations to atNorth in Iceland, leveraging renewable energy sources, BNP Paribas lowered its total cost of ownership, with 50% less energy and 85% less CO2 output,” said Gisli Kr., Chief Commercial Officer atNorth Data Centers. AtNorth’s engineering teams work with Dell to deliver tailor-made infrastructure that matches customer needs and leverages efficient design.
Iceland’s Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Innovation, Þórdís Kolbrú, said in an interview with Future Banking TV, that she considers it a win-win situation: “Iceland is a leader in green energy. One hundred percent of our electricity is renewable, the cold climate is a competitive advantage, and our electricity prices are competitive. Then you add in the new data connection directly from Iceland to Ireland.”
Governments around the globe are passing net-zero legislation that will limit the use of fossil fuels to mitigate the effects of climate change. One company is finding cost-effective emissions reduction and combustion improvement solutions in the power generation sector, using HPC capabilities to simulate the impact of decarbonization.
Over the past ten years, RJM International has been helping power plants evaluate the opportunities, as well as challenges, that come with co-firing or a full conversion to biomass. The US Energy Information Administration considers plants a carbon-neutral energy source because they capture the same amount of CO2 while growing as is released when they are burned as biomass. In contrast, firing one metric ton of coal will release around 2.8 metric tons of CO2.
For power station customers who are preparing prototypes, RJM International analyzes existing operational systems and simulates new solutions. Using its HPC cluster, RJM teams can complete the series of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations within one day—a process that previously took a week.
“Simulations are becoming larger and more complex for the coal, oil, gas, and biomass industries looking to improve new or aging combustion plants,” said Anura Perera, Principal CFD Engineer at RJM International. “Our HPC cluster enables us to produce a greater number of simulations at a much faster rate than before and helps support the resolution of complex emissions challenges for our customers.”
RJM International’s HPC system is comprised of Dell PowerEdge servers together with Mellanox’s EDR InfiniBand. The solution uses ANSYS Fluent and ANSYS HPC applications and OCF’s HPC management software stack which includes management, monitoring, and reporting tools.
“RJM International plays a key role in improving efficiencies and delivering a low carbon economy and reducing pollution,” said Russell Slack, Managing Director of OCF. “Its commitment to HPC technology places it at the forefront of the power industry and enables it to vastly improve the capacity and complexity of CFD simulations for new projects.”
Support a Circular Economy
A recent Sustainability Times article noted that “sustainable technology can help identify areas for improvement, including where businesses can cut down on unnecessary waste.” One leading maker of HPC devices, storage, and servers is reducing waste or preventing it altogether using a circular design tactic.
Dell engineers consider sustainability at every stage of a product’s lifecycle with a goal to achieve zero waste by ensuring that every part of its products can be reused or recycled. For example, more than 90% of a typical Dell laptop is recyclable, and the company uses 27 million pounds of sustainable materials in its products.
When products do reach the end of life, the company makes recycling easy for its customers with simple, global takeback options. Some of the materials are returned to the start of its production process while others are sold to other companies for use in their products.
Beyond products, sustainable business models and technologies like cloud computing, virtualization, and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions can help reduce the physical nature of value creation.
When it comes to igniting the circular economy within an organization—and taking other sustainability measures to bridge the gap between ambition and impact—Dell Technologies Principal Environmental Strategist John Pflueger offers this advice: “You’re playing a role in it already, whether you know it or not. So, understand it. Be conscious of it. Make the decisions that are right for you and make the decisions that are right for your business—but make them consciously. Know what your connection is, and what you want that connection to be down the line.”
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