The rise of the digital economy has led to growing demand for data centres that house computing and data storage infrastructure. As computer servers generate a lot of heat, these data centres are currently air-cooled at temperatures between 23 and 27 degrees Celsius, and at ambient humidity of 50 to 60 per cent as the industrial practice.
Maintaining such controlled environments require high energy consumption, resulting in high cost and carbon emissions – particularly for tropical countries like Singapore.
Singapore supplies about 60 per cent of the data centres located in Southeast Asia. Data centres in Singapore consume almost 7 per cent of the country’s total energy needs, a figure projected to reach 12 per cent by 2030. Thus, there is increasing need to reduce power consumption and carbon footprint in packing more computing power within the same floor area, while developing solutions to sustain the cooling demands of data centres.
Professor Low Teck Seng, NRF’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “Data centres are the backbone of the digital economy and they require constant cooling for optimal operations. The new Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed will accelerate the development and testbedding of innovative and sustainable solutions for data centres, towards commercial deployment. As part of our Energy Grid 2.0 programme, the testbed facility will also support Singapore’s journey towards becoming a low-emissions economy.”
The STDCT and its research activities will be jointly led by Programme Director Associate Professor Lee Poh Seng from the NUS Department of Mechanical Engineering, together with Professor Wen Yonggang, Associate Dean (Research) at NTU’s College of Engineering. “Data centres are a critical enabler of the digital economy, but the average data centre can exert a significant environmental burden. Aligned with RIE 2025, sustainability is a key research focus of NUS, and our researchers have deep expertise in developing integrated solutions for tropical, urban and Asian settings. NUS is excited to lead the new STDCT, which is a timely initiative that brings together the capabilities and experience of the academic community and the industry to achieve a common goal of co-developing new technologies to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of tropical data centres, while optimising their operations,” said Professor Chen Tsuhan, NUS Deputy President (Research & Technology).
NTU’s Senior Vice President (Research) Professor Lam Khin Yong, said, “Data centres are the backbone of Singapore’s national digital transformation, and there is a need to improve their energy efficiency and sustainability as we continue to grow as a data centre hub. On the NTU Smart Campus, our scientists have pioneered award-winning Artificial Intelligence technologies to tackle these challenges as part of the NTU 2025 strategic plan and will adapt them for trials at the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed. The initiative is a national open innovation platform where academia and industry players jointly develop and testbed new cooling technologies that will benefit the entire data centre ecosystem.”
Mr Alex Johnson, Vice President, Infrastructure at Facebook, said, “Facebook designs some of the most energy and water efficient data centres in the world. We are excited about the opportunity to partner NUS, NTU, Keppel Data Centres and the CoolestSG community to develop innovative solutions that reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of the average data centre, particularly those located in tropical areas like Singapore.”
Mr Yeo Tiong Yeow, Cluster Director (Infrastructure Planning & Facilitation), IMDA, said: “The digital economy continues to generate and use data at exponential rates. We will work closely with industry to push technological boundaries to bring about more energy efficient data centres and encourage the adoption of best-in-class technologies, solutions and standards. This will enable us to grow our data centre ecosystem sustainably and further entrench Singapore as one of the world’s leading data centre hubs.”