Canada needs to seize the green energy opportunity

The world’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is in need of a green energy provider, and, according to Mohamed Cheriet, spokesperson for the GreenStar Network (GSN) project, that’s where Canada has the potential to make its mark.

Cheriet, a Professor in the Department of Synchromedia at the École de technologie supérieure in Montreal, gave an overview of the GSN project at the CANARIE Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Tuesday, June 21. The virtual AGM was videoconferenced across four sites using CANARIE’s advanced network and the GSN. Cybera’s Calgary facility was one of the broadcast locations, joining Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Cheriet showed a map plotting 2,000 datacentres in the world. Of those, he said that half are based in the United States (US), 57 in Canada, and the rest are spread around the world. These centres are one of the ICT sector’s largest energy consumers. As more and more research organizations, institutions and businesses of all sizes turn to cloud, virtualization and remote storage as data solutions, the reliance on ICT — and the amount of greenhouse gases this sector produces — is expected to grow. Currently, Cheriet noted, the ICT industry in the US accounts for 8% of its national power consumption. The carbon dioxide produced from that energy consumption is growing by at least 6% per year.

This is where Canada and the GSN come in.

The Calgary-based GreenStar Network node is operated by Cybera and powered by eight solar panels located on the roof of the Alastair Ross Technology Centre.

As we’ve already noted in past blogs, the GSN project draws renewable energy from five nodes across Canada. Cybera is a local partner in the project, operating the Calgary solar-powered node located on the roof of the Alastair Ross Technology Centre (pictured at right). With a global reach in mind, the GSN project has expanded overseas to host nodes in Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, and Spain. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with partners in China, and one with Egypt is in the works.

Cheriet says Canada offers unique advantages which make it an ideal green energy producer. The country’s expanding investment into hydro, wind and solar resources means energy can be provisioned at a low price. Access to high-speed optical network infrastructure (such as that provided by CANARIE) enables high-performance connections with major content providers, allowing for large-scale research projects and leading-edge network-enabled platforms. This has also set the stage for the GSN project to experiment with key areas of ICT operation and management technology, namely virtualization, cloud management, carbon monitoring and energy optimization. The next step, argues Cheriet, is to continue rallying and building government and industry support for adopting green IT and green energy platforms.

CANARIE, a major funder of the project, is on board with GSN’s vision.
“If we can become a leader in green IT, it creates economic advantages for all Canadians,” said Mark Roman, CANARIE President and CEO.

As CANARIE begins its mandate renewal process, the GSN is one of many funded projects that demonstrate CANARIE’s impact on advancing Canada’s digital economy strategy. Both Roman and Mark Whitmore, Chair of CANARIE’s Board of Directors, highlighted the following as priority areas for the organization’s mandate renewal:

  • reach out to more Canadian users and enhance international collaborations
  • incorporate emerging technologies such as cloud and wireless
  • spearhead economic development and job creation

Strong collaborations remain a cornerstone to these plans, Whitmore noted, and CANARIE will continue to develop and support partnerships in Canada’s research, education and industry sectors.

So what does the upcoming year look like for you? Is green energy or some form of green IT on the horizon for your organization? Are you using Cybera’s or CANARIE’s advanced network for a project or pilot? We want to hear about it. Leave your comments below!

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