Over the past five years, Sky Italia has taken dramatic steps toward reducing energy consumption across their operations. Through a series of innovative projects, the team has been able to reduce their overall CO2 emissions by a yearly average of 3,443 tonnes and has saved hundreds of thousands of euros in the process. Those achievements are due largely to a pioneering refit of the chiller stations at their data center in Milan. Complementary projects, such as an increase in chiller water temperature and the installation of a time switch on their data center lights, have allowed for additional savings in costs and CO2 emissions. The projects’ impressive bottom line results and significant environmental benefits are emblematic of Sky Italia’s overall commitment to making their operations more efficient and sustainable.
Data Center Chiller Refits
Sky Italia’s headquarters in Milan houses their main data center, which contains the computers that support their digital operations. The data center is equipped with several air conditioning units, or chillers, that keep the computers within an operational temperature range. The chillers work by extracting heat from the data center and dispersing it into the atmosphere. Rather than continue to let that heat escape, the team at Sky Italia worked to see if there was a way to capture it and make it work for them.
For an initial investment of €180,000, Sky Italia was able to refurbish the chiller stations at their main branch to capture the heat being extracted and use it to heat their offices. The project consisted of two phases. In Phase I, the team would re-engineer four chillers for partial heat recovery over the course of 2010 and 2011. In 2012, they would begin Phase II, wherein two chillers would be outfitted for total heat recovery. Even in the early stages, the team began to see immediate results.
In 2010, the first year of the project, energy consumption for heating fell 16% against a 2009 baseline. In 2011, consumption fell an additional 31%, reaching a total 47% reduction against the 2009 baseline. The team continued to roll out Phase II of the project through 2012, and by the end of the year, the team calculated that energy consumption for heating had fallen 95% total since 2009, saving a cumulative €900,000 and reducing Sky Italia’s overall carbon footprint by an average of 2,852 tonnes per year. The project has nearly eliminated the need for Sky Italia to buy district heating from the local utility. Going forward, Sky Italia projects that every year the initiative will save more than €500,000 and 7.1 million kilowatt hours (kWh), the equivalent of saving 386,000 gallons of gas every year.
Chilled Water Temperature Increase
In the process of extracting heat from the data centers, the chillers cool water to 7 degrees Celsius (44.6 degrees Fahrenheit). However, the team at Sky Italia discovered that if they raised the target cooling temperature from 7 to 9 degrees Celsius, the chillers still kept the equipment within operational temperatures but were using less energy to do so, thus becoming more efficient. Sky Italia estimates that the project saves an average of €25,000 and nearly 100 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
Additional Energy Reduction Projects
- Sky Italia established a local area network (LAN) connection among air conditioning units in the data center rooms, allowing for tighter, more efficient coordination of the units’ energy use. One or more units is always on stand-by, and which machine is on stand-by rotates regularly.
- Sky Italia also engineered the 1,300 fan coils in their system to switch off automatically during the night, except in areas that are operative for 24 hours per day.
- In addition, Sky Italia installed a timer switch for the lights in their data center, according to which lights will automatically shut off 20 minutes after being switched on.
Chiller Refits at the Rome Office
Given the success with chiller refits at their Milan office, Sky Italia recently began to explore the possibility of replicating such effective results at their other locations. They started with their office in Rome.
In October 2012, the team in Rome completed a project to replace the traditional chiller units at their data center with newer models that feature more efficient “inverter” technology. Even in just this short time, the team has seen a 38% reduction in electricity usage, and the project is expected to save approximately €200,000 annually.