Singapore must ensure digital infrastructure is environmentally sustainable, says Desmond Lee

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SINGAPORE: As the digital economy continues to grow, it is important for Singapore to ensure that its digital infrastructure is “as environmentally sustainable as possible,” National Development Minister Desmond Lee said on Tuesday (April 6th).

Mr. Lee was speaking at a virtual event held for the opening of Digital Realty’s third and largest data center in Singapore.

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The five-story 50-megawatt facility is also one of the US-based company’s most durable data centers in the region with an energy use efficiency of 1.25. Digital Loyang II, or SIN12, has received Green Mark Platinum certification from the Building and Construction Authority.

This is the highest certification a data center can achieve under the local data center rating system, the minister said, adding that SIN12 is “over 30% more energy efficient. energy than the industry standard ”.

The new facility, known as Digital Loyang II or SIN12, is located near the Changi North Cable Landing Station, a key undersea interconnection hub for the region. (Photo: Digital Realty)

Digital Realty’s latest data center was also built in a smart and resilient manner, added Lee.

For example, a “common data environment” was adopted during the build process. This allowed the company’s consultants and its contractors to continue working on the building’s design despite the disruption caused by the pandemic.

The new data center also leveraged design manufacturing and assembly technologies, with the use of precast concrete and precast mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. This has helped move construction work off-site and improve productivity by at least 30%.

In addition, the precast concrete components for the project were sourced entirely from local sources.

“Taken together, they allowed SIN12 to complete construction on time and not be as affected as many other companies by labor and material shortages due to COVID-19 border restrictions. Mr. Lee said.

“Smart, resilient and sustainable buildings like SIN12 are what we are actively promoting in Singapore in our ongoing efforts to transform our built environment sector.”

MODERATE GROWTH OF DATA CENTERS

The opening comes as Singapore reflects on a more sustainable approach to data center growth here.

READ: Commentary: When our insatiable appetite for data can hurt the environment too

In a written response to a February 1 parliamentary question, the Department of Trade and Industry (MTI) said the government had “decided to moderate the growth” of data centers with a temporary pause on land release state for such purposes, as well as the development of data centers on existing Crown lands.

The industry was made aware of the decision in 2019 and was consulted on ideas for more sustainable growth, MTI added.

Data centers are an important part of the digital economy, but they are “heavy users” of water and electricity.

MTI said the industry had seen a “rapid increase” over the past five years, with 14 data centers with a total computing capacity of 768 megawatts approved to be built on industrial land. This is compared to the approval of 12 data centers with a total computing capacity of 307 megawatts over the previous five years.

“We will therefore need to manage the data center ecosystem to ensure that it is environmentally sustainable, while also meeting our business needs,” the ministry said in the written response, adding that the government is completing its review and will share its plans with industry. “Later this year”.

According to previous media reports, Digital Realty announced the acquisition of the Loyang site for SIN12 in January 2019.

BALANCING GROWTH AND SUSTAINABILITY

Mr. Mark Smith, Managing Director of Digital Realty for Asia Pacific, said the company understands the need to balance digital growth and sustainability.

The company, which is one of the largest data center providers with 275 data centers in the world, said it is committed to the Science-Based Targets initiative, with goals that include alignment of its carbon emissions on a 1.5 degree climate change scenario. by 2030.

It also issued $ 5.6 billion in green bonds – the largest in the industry, according to Smith.

“This area of ​​sustainability is something that is essential for us because, quite simply, it is essential for our customers and, increasingly, for the governments where we operate. So this is something that is of critical importance to Digital Realty going forward, ”he said.

However, there are challenges.

On the one hand, Singapore’s tropical climate means that 35-40% of the energy consumed by a data center here is spent on cooling.

Land tenure constraints are also “a significant constraint” to harnessing renewable energy, given that “there is only a limited amount of solar panels or floating photovoltaic panels on rooftops that you can deploy in Singapore”, Smith said during an online panel discussion held after the opening.

WATCH: A floating data center in development to overcome land and energy constraints

But the company has found ways to overcome these challenges.

This includes implementing a cooling system design in SIN12 to help minimize evaporative losses and improve water use efficiency. It also uses turbogenerators, instead of diesel engines, and a combination of uninterruptible power supply and lithium-ion batteries to facilitate sustainable management, he said.

In addition to sustainable functionality, the 34,000 m2 SIN12 also offers “next generation” colocation services that allow businesses to “scale their critical infrastructure on demand within a data community. connected with optimal proximity to operators, networks and cloud service. suppliers “.

Businesses will also be able to leverage its global data center platform, which offers “productive solutions for network, control and data hub footprints”.

SIN12 is located next to Digital Realty’s existing data center in Loyang, with which it is connected by various high-volume fiber routes. Loyang’s two facilities are also interconnected with the company’s other data center in Jurong.

Without specifying names, the company said its new data center is already “largely pre-leased” to a community of leading global cloud service providers, local and global financial service providers, as well as large corporations. from Southeast Asia.

The opening of the third data center brings its total committed investment in Singapore to over US $ 1 billion (around S $ 1.3 billion), he said.

“Singapore is a well-established financial and commercial center and consistently ranks among the world’s leading data center markets,” said William Stein, Managing Director of Digital Realty.

“Expanding our footprint in Singapore will allow us to better help our clients strengthen their digital transformation efforts and evolve their digital business models regionally and globally.”

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