Green is Our Favorite Color: How Applied Digital is Thriving in the Green Economy

Applied Digital is building high-performance computing (HPC) infrastructure that makes tomorrow’s AI innovations a reality. Clearly, the locations of such powerhouses can’t be left to mere chance.

Behind Applied Digital’s innovative selection approach is the strategic vision of the EVP of Power, Etienne Snyman. With a keen eye for spotting energy opportunities, Snyman is sourcing and harnessing the power crucial for today’s innovative and power-hungry applications. His efforts orchestrate the company’s use of renewable energy like wind and ambient temperature to drive both environmental and economic benefits. In fact, “finding locations that are energy-rich with low load is a logic puzzle that is easier said than done,” according to Snyman.

Every Applied campus boasts unique attributes, but its energy-first backbone remains consistent: abundant power supply, high wind/solar generation, and an ability to make a significant positive contribution to the grid. That’s because, in today’s business climate, sustainability can’t just be a buzzword; it’s a crucial aspect of responsible business practices. And for companies like Applied Digital, being green isn’t just about moral obligation – it’s about making smart business decisions that benefit both the environment and the bottom line. After all, green is always business’ favorite color.

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind
When considering sustainability, it’s been useful to zoom out and look at the macro level. By strategically locating HPC data centers in regions abundant with wind resources, the company capitalizes on renewable energy opportunities while supporting local economies. Often, inadequate transmission capacity in these areas strands power, disincentivizing further investments in regional renewable energy projects. By building its load in areas like this, Applied alleviates congestion, improves wind farm economics, and incents developers to continue investing.

Nature’s Free Cooling
It’s no secret that the climates between Texas and North Dakota, are, well, different. Applied Digital has had facilities in both locations for different reasons. When considering sustainability initiatives, it’s useful to zoom in on the data center facilities themselves. Power-hungry, high application data centers get hot fast. That’s where the ambient temperatures of a location like North Dakota become pivotal. Understandably the PUE metric is lower in North Dakota where less energy is required to cool a facility than one in Texas due to the natural benefit of free environmental cooling. Naturally cool climates optimize operational efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

Past is Prologue
While seldom discussed, Applied Digital’s initial successes in the blockchain mining industry laid the foundation for a number of its current green initiatives. In fact, the company’s first HPC data center was built next to its largest blockchain mining data center. Leveraging lessons from this space, the company gained an appreciation for energy-dense infrastructure and innovative cooling solutions. This past taught the company how to think creatively. It gave the team a great appreciation and respect for what it takes to cool a facility that has a lot of energy packed into a small space. It taught Applied to reconsider how they interconnect with an energy source and how that energy gets transmitted. These lessons now inform Applied’s current green business model and sustainability approach.

As Applied Digital looks to lead the way and innovate new sustainable business practices, the company is only getting started. Today’s rapidly evolving landscape means that sustainability isn’t just a trend; it’s a competitive advantage. On the horizon are new locations that possess untapped spare energy… Opportunities where the company can improve grid reliability and incent new sustainability development initiatives… and showcasing how the company can alleviate challenges found on promising utilities grids. “We use electrons that in many cases would otherwise not be generated,” Snyman explains. “There comes a point when wind farms and other sustainability projects shut down because there’s nowhere to send the power.”

As in all good business, it often comes down to identifying mutual synergies.