January 2024 - Data Center | Sustainability

New Standards for Data Center Sustainability Set at Germany’s University of Göttingen

In this case study, Sebastian Behr, Sales and Account Manager Segment Data Center Germany highlights ABB’s collaboration with the University of Göttingen for a sustainable High-Performance Data Center, with a strong emphasis on climate protection and scalability.

New Standards for Data Center Sustainability Set at Germany’s University of Göttingen-web


ABB is a Swiss-based global engineering company and a technology leader in electrification and automation, working towards enabling a more sustainable and resource-efficient future. Our solutions combine engineering know-how and software to optimize the way things are made, powered, and operated. Our people help customers around the world to optimize, electrify, and decarbonize their operations.

Support for data centers is core to our work. Essential services for society and the economy these days rely on data centers, although their growth and high energy consumption has made them the focus of increased public scrutiny. IT systems account for almost four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – significantly higher than global air traffic.

And as data center power consumption and the density of higher-performance processors continue to grow, it is important to minimize CO₂ footprints at every point in the information technology value chain. Urgent action is essential.

Data-driven science and AI developments

In Germany, the University of Göttingen’s High-Performance Data Center (HPDC) is a significant milestone for its scientific community, the Göttingen Campus. It is the computing center for the University of Göttingen and a computing and IT competence center for the Max Planck Society. The HPDC is one of nine national high-performance data centers and has been selected as Germany’s national AI service center.

The scalable data center not only enhances IT services across the university campus; it will also support rapid digitalization at Göttingen’s various Max Planck Institutes and the University Medical Center Göttingen.

This involves a highly flexible platform for ABB’s electrical power supply, whose medium-voltage switchgear functions without climate-damaging insulating gas.

Professor Dr Ramin Yahyapour is Managing Director of the Society for Scientific Data Processing Göttingen (GWDG) and head of the data center: “When I came to Göttingen, the existing computing capacities were at their limit. Working on a new, scalable solution was a natural part of my mandate.”

The GWDG provides two categories of services. The first is the essential IT network that requires high availability to keep our users online. The second category includes specialized services specific to the field of science.

With standard solutions unsuitable in this regard, the GWDG needed a partner with the right expertise in both medium and low voltage distribution – and with solutions for future scaling, given that they regularly encounter new requirements. And, aligned with the university’s climate protection goals, all architectural components and subsystems had to be designed to consistently reduce emissions. Partnering with ABB, the GWDG received support with materials and solutions for emission protection and climate friendliness. 

Climate protection by design

The GWDG is pulling out all the stops in its work to develop a largely climate-neutral IT supply on the university campus. This includes electricity from renewable energy sources, innovative cooling methods such as an ice storage system, and the utilization of waste heat from server racks for heating neighboring campus buildings. Waste heat that the data center produces is also utilized on the opposite side of the street for greenhouses and the university’s district heating system.

The sustainable High-Performance Data Center is a collaborative project between the University of Göttingen, the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG), and the Max Planck Society. It is run by the GWDG.

As Gabriel Keller, electrical specialist in the technical building management at the University of Göttingen, also highlights: “Highly flexible power distribution is essential for sustainable IT operations. For this reason, we are using an integrated ABB solution platform at the High-Performance Data Center.”

Keller’s team had previous experience of ABB projects. As partners, they had jointly established a campus-wide KNX platform for detailed energy consumption monitoring, ensuring consistent transparency, and enabling permanent consumption optimization for sustainable energy savings.

Modular, safe, and flexible power solution

Göttingen’s data center project uses two ABB ZS8.4 air-insulated medium-voltage switchgear units, serving as the backbone for a robust electricity supply for all server and storage systems in the new data center. The ZS8.4 models use no sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), the greenhouse gas commonly used in many medium-voltage systems.

The modular design of the ZS8.4 medium-voltage switchgear units offers tangible cost benefits and flexibility advantages: all installation, maintenance, and operation tasks can be carried out on the front-side of the compact equipment modules. To save space, the individual units can be installed with their backs against the wall. All ZS8.4 modules undergo factory pre-testing for compliance with national and international safety standards.

The ZS8.4 models also demonstrate ABB’s proven current protection philosophy, addressing specific safety requirements in diverse application scenarios. Thanks to a wide range of automation options, the Göttingen High-Performance Data Center can achieve the highest safety and availability standards in medium-voltage distribution with minimal effort.

The low-voltage distribution is based entirely on ABB’s “Pro E Power” system. Here, all components are perfectly coordinated, so that, from the outset, complications resulting from incompatible partial solutions in Göttingen were eliminated.

Power distribution for high-speed innovation

Speed is a crucial factor in Göttingen. The High-Performance Data Center is designed for maximum scalability: with future-oriented performance requirements such as the provision of innovative AI applications, processor and memory capacities need to be expanded as necessary at any time. The same must also apply to the electricity supply for new server racks and storage systems.


Sebastian Behr, ABB’s Data Center Sales & Account Manager: “ABB’s modular platform enables power distribution in the new data center to keep pace in the long-term with the high speed of innovation at the university and the Max Planck Society.”

The University of Göttingen’s new High-Performance Data Center continues to be a collaborative project involving various academic institutions, as well as a landmark in data center sustainability. The partnership between ABB and the University of Göttingen demonstrates a commitment to advancing sustainable practices in data centers and IT operations, contributing to global efforts to optimize, electrify, and decarbonize operations.


Sebastian Behr is responsible for the sales activities in data center projects in Germany.


Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s or interview partner’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry.