Digital Realty is to roll out hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) to some of its backup generators in the US.

The colocation firm has also partnered with Schneider Electric for a circular economy initiative.

Digital Realty adopts HVO in California – Getty Images

Digital adopts HVO in US

HVO is a synthetic paraffinic diesel, made from vegetable oils or waste reprocessing with added hydrogen. It is a drop-in replacement fuel that can be used without modifications to existing engines. It can also be blended with diesel.

The company this week announced the expanded deployment of HVO at sites in California and Oregon, its first use of the diesel replacement in the US.

HVO is being deployed at Digital Realty’s PDX12 facility in Hillsboro, Oregon; SC1 in Santa Clara, California, and LAX12 in El Segundo, California.

Digital Realty said it will avoid approximately 12,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Digital initially rolled out HVO to data centers in Paris, France, in 2022, followed by Madrid, Spain. Today, the company said it is using HVO at more than 20 sites across Europe – including in Amsterdam – and will be using HVO in seven markets once the US roll-out is complete.

"By expanding our HVO rollout to the US, we’re further expanding our commitment to sustainability, delivering tangible results in reducing carbon emissions while maintaining operational excellence," said Aaron Binkley, Vice President of Sustainability, Digital Realty. "This is a significant milestone in our pursuit of solutions that address the environmental impact of backup generators at data centers."

A number of companies are looking to diesel alternatives as a way to reduce their carbon footprint and green their backup operations. But while HVO fuel is being increasingly adopted by operators in Europe, its use in the US is still limited.

Compass uses HVO at its sites. Last year Vantage announced it would be using HVO at its data centers in Santa Clara, California, by the end of 2024. Nova has said it plans to use HVO at its upcoming data center in San Francisco, California.

Kohler last year swapped diesel for HVO at its Brest generator manufacturing plant in France, totaling some 325,000 liters. However, the company told DCD its US plant in Wisconsin is yet to make the change due to logistics and supply challenges.

“For our Brest plant, Total has installed a large local HVO storage so that they are able to supply us at a lower price, next to the facility,” Kohler’s product manager for large diesel generators and clean energies, Pierre Adrien Bel told us last year. “In California, it will be quite easy to find HVO, whereas with our plant in Wisconsin, it is more difficult to find. And the cost to transport HVO from California to Wisconsin makes no sense.”

Digital partners with Schneider for circular economy project

Schneider Electric this week also announced a circular economy project with Digital.

The project aims to prolong and maintain the life of the mission-critical systems at the colo firm’s PAR6 facility in Paris, France, including its Schneider Electric Low Voltage (LV) and Medium-Voltage (MV) electrical equipment, switchgear, and three-phase uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

This includes reusing electrical infrastructure and components, and initiating new take-back, recycle, and refurbish programs to help reduce the company’s eWaste, its Scope 3 emissions, and removing high-impact greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as SF6, which is often used in cooling systems.

Additionally, the initiative includes a plan to undertake what Schneider called an industry-first battery rejuvenation assessment to extend the lifecycle of PAR6’s VRLA UPS batteries while adhering to circular economy principles.

Over the next 3-5 years, Schneider said the circularity project is expected to help Digital Realty save and avoid 50-70 percent of the embodied carbon within its LV, MV, and three-phase UPS equipment, while prolonging equipment lifecycles.

“We are constantly adapting our strategy and operations to meet the challenges of sustainable development: the circularity of equipment, in this case electrical equipment, is one of the major levers for decarbonizing our activities and our value chain. This is where our collaboration with Schneider Electric, a partner of over 20 years, really comes into its own,” said Fabrice Coquio, SVP and managing director of Digital Realty in France.

A similar circular economy program was rolled out to Digital’s PAR5 facility in 2022/2023, which Schneider said had delivered 3.7 tons of CO2 savings to date.