There is still a great distance between sustainability sentiment and corporate action. Innovative green technology, including energy-efficient supercomputers, low-emission data centers, computational fluid dynamics simulations and circular design, are helping to close that gap.
Think about 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. While concerns are mounting, only 19% of those surveyed say they use most of the strategies known to ‘move the needle’.
Necessary actions include developing climate-friendly products or services and setting sustainability criteria for suppliers and partners. Here we examine four key examples of green technology implementations across industries, from IT to finance to energy, that can have a significant impact on sustainability.
Energy-efficient super computers
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed the UK’s largest academic supercomputer to solve complex problems, including designing nuclear fusion reactors to tackle the energy crisis.
“This is really revolutionizing what our researchers can do,” said Dr. Paul Calleja, Director of Research Computing Services at the University of Cambridge. The university’s system, which takes up 100 racks in the data center and includes 2,500 servers, can support more than 3,000 academics and 700 research projects worldwide.
Equally noteworthy, the system is built to double its energy efficiency while providing five times the simulation capacity 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, ranked in [a recent] International Green 500 Competition,” says Calleja, describing the configuration as a heterogeneous cluster built with GPUs on a single HDR 200 InfiniBand fabric. “Now it is very difficult to get one-size-fits-all because different problems require different solutions. By working with Dell, we can combine those solutions into one system.”
While traditional HPC systems use 20 to 30 megawatts of power, Calleja views this percentage as “unsustainable,” and that’s part of what drives his team to “look at how we can lower the power consumption of supercomputers.”
Reducing emissions in data centers
Participants at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow underlined the critical role of businesses and financial institutions in accelerating the path to net-zero. Some financial institutions are now working to accelerate the sustainability of their operations, including modern approaches to energy-consuming data centers.
One bank, BNP Paribas, is future-proofing its HPC infrastructure by moving 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 data center move may come just in time. Researchers from Huawei Technologies Sweden predicted that given the rapid growth of cloud computing, data centers could consume 8% of global electricity by 2030.
“By moving data center operations to atNorth in Iceland using renewable energy sources, BNP Paribas has reduced its total cost of ownership, with 50% less energy and 85% less CO2 emissions,” said Gisli Kr., Chief Commercial Officer at North data centers. AtNorth’s engineering teams work with Dell to deliver a custom infrastructure that meets 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 sees it as 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 the new data connection directly from Iceland to Ireland.”
Governments around the world are adopting net-zero legislation that will limit the use of fossil fuels to mitigate the effects of climate change. One company is looking for cost-effective solutions for emissions reduction and combustion improvement in the power generation sector, using HPC capabilities to simulate the impact of decarbonization.
Over the past ten years, RJM International has helped power plants evaluate the opportunities, as well as challenges, associated with co-firing or full conversion to biomass. The US Energy Information Administration considers plants a carbon neutral source of energy because they capture the same amount of CO2 as they grow when they are burned as biomass. In contrast, firing one tonne of coal will release approximately 2.8 tonnes of CO2.
For power plant customers preparing prototypes, RJM International analyzes existing operational systems and simulates new solutions. Using the HPC cluster, RJM teams can complete the series of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations in one day — a process that previously took a week.
“Simulations are getting bigger 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 solve complex emissions challenges for our customers.”
RJM International’s HPC system consists of Dell PowerEdge servers along with Mellanox’s EDR InfiniBand. The solution leverages 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 efficiency, delivering a low-carbon economy and reducing pollution,” said Russell Slack, Managing Director of OCF. “Its commitment to HPC technology puts it at the forefront of the energy sector and enables it to vastly improve the capacity and complexity of CFD simulations for new projects.”
Support a circular economy
A recent Durability times article noted that “sustainable technology can help identify areas for improvement, including where companies can cut back on unnecessary waste.” A leading maker of HPC devices, storage and servers reduces or eliminates waste by adopting a circular design tactic.
Dell engineers consider sustainability at every stage of a product’s lifecycle with the goal of achieving 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 of sustainable materials in its products.
When products reach the end of their useful life, the company makes recycling easy for its customers with simple, worldwide take-back options. Some materials go back to the beginning of the manufacturing process, while others are sold to other companies for use in their products.
In addition to products, sustainable business models and technologies such as cloud computing, virtualization and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions can help reduce the physical nature of value creation.
When it comes to enabling the circular economy within an organization and taking other sustainability measures to bridge the gap between ambition and impact, John Pflueger, chief environmental strategist at Dell Technologies, offers this advice: “You are already part of it. whether you know it or not. So understand. Be aware of it. Make the decisions that suit you and make the decisions that suit your business, but make them consciously. Know what your connection is and what you want that connection to be later on.”
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