To offer stable communication services to their customers, network centers are indispensable to mobile network operators. However, with the proliferation of AI, 5G, and IoT devices, which are increasing data traffic, power consumption at network centers is also on the rise. To mitigate environmental impacts, SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) is using renewable energy as an energy solution for its network centers.
This initiative was first launched in 2021 following the announcement of SoftBank’s Carbon-neutral 2023 Declaration. As part of this effort, different departments at SoftBank discussed potential energy-saving measures and decided upon solar energy as one of them. As a result, SoftBank installed rooftop solar panels at a network center location in the Chugoku region–located on the west side of Japan’s Honshu island–which supplies up to 24% of its annual power demand.
Takao Suzuki and Junya Kitazawa, who both work for SoftBank’s Network Operations Division, discussed the challenges associated with increased renewable energy adoption.
Initially they faced issues such as high initial costs and procuring electricity from remote locations. They spoke with Terras Energy Corporation, a renewable energy operator, which suggested developing a 'self-commissioned delivery' system that supplies electricity from remote locations without initial costs. Utilizing this system, SoftBank was able to introduce solar energy to a network center location in the Kanto region, an area that encompasses Tokyo and seven surrounding prefectures.
Terras Energy and SoftBank established a scheme where SoftBank leases power plants and pays service fees, including maintenance costs. Using this self-commissioned delivery system, SoftBank can now contribute to carbon neutrality in a cost-effective manner.
Due to large-scale requirements, the construction of a solar power plant began in December 2022, but unexpected challenges, such as discovering an underground passage that stalled construction, were encountered. With assistance from their partner, Terras Energy, they overcame these obstacles and started power transmission in May 2023.
This renewable energy initiative is contributing to SoftBank's goal of using "additive renewable energy," explained Suzuki. He and Kitazawa anticipate an approximate 50% reduction in electricity charges at the Chugoku network center location and a 20-30% reduction using self-consigned delivery at the Kanto network center location.
Considering the growing demands on data infrastructure and network centers with the rise of technologies like ChatGPT, Suzuki emphasized that there is a need to strategize on ways of reducing power consumption at data centers and network centers, and to continue focusing on utilizing renewable energy to achieve SoftBank’s Net Zero goals.
(Posted on September 7, 2023, Original article published on August 4, 2023)
by SoftBank News Editors