Ecological Implications of Data Centres
Focus Areas: News and Media, Transport and Mobility, Health, Social Services
Research Program: Institutions
The project seeks to understand how companies, public agencies and civil society address the environmental conditions and limitations facing the establishment and management of data centres and submarine cables in urban and coastal areas.
A central part of data centre management is heat management: servers produce heat, and as they are gathered in large numbers in close areas, temperatures rise raising the risk of fire. To overcome this, data centre operators have various techniques to cool down these facilities and avoid any risks of data loss caused by fires. Moreover, when landing, telecom subsea cables risk to damage the local biodiversity (especially marine plants).
Thus, this project will ask: what shapes the environmental impacts of data centres cooling infrastructures? What are the ecological implications involved with the landing of a telecom submarine cable or the creation of a new data centre? How are these ecological impacts made visible to stakeholders? To what extent do environmental assessments succeed in reconciling the various interests at stake (security of infrastructures, maritime trade, marine biodiversity) in the passage of a telecomunication cable? How do ecological and infrastructural vulnerabilities of both data centers and telecom submarine cables shape the world-wide interconnection of data at the heart of the digital economy?
In order to address this question, we will take as a case study the rapid growth of data centres and telecommunication subsea cables in Marseille (France), which is particularly interesting as this city is in a warm climate, making the issue of heat management more difficult there than in the north of Europe.
This project is conducted by ADM+S Research Fellow Dr Loup Cellard in collaboration with Dr Clément Marquet (Mines Paris).