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Alibaba to share data centre patents to help companies reach climate goals

The company joins HPE, Microsoft, and Meta in their mission of promoting low carbon technologies

Alibaba Group has joined the Low Carbon Patent Pledge (LCPP) in a bid to accelerate the adoption of green technology around the world.

The LCPP is an international platform that encourages patent sharing for low carbon technologies. It was launched on Earth Day 2021 by HPE, Microsoft, and Meta, with the mission of promoting low carbon technologies and fostering collaborative innovation.

As part of the drive, Alibaba has pledged to make nine energy efficiency data centre patents free for external parties to accelerate the adoption of green technology and foster collaborative innovation.

Alibaba Cloud also plans to have its global data centres running entirely on clean energy by 2030, starting with upgrades to five of its hyper-scale data centres in China.

The initiative is the first time Alibaba has pledged to offer critical intellectual property (IP) broadly available on sustainability grounds. The nine patents offered are part of the company’s green data centre technologies and include the “soaking server” cooling system Alibaba Cloud has deployed for its data centres since 2015. This is a non-mechanical cooling measure that it says leads to energy savings of over 70% compared to traditional mechanical cooling.

“As a pioneer and global technology leader, we are committed to taking broader social responsibility to use technology to level the playing field and to empower the wider social groups, creating long-term value,”  said Chen Long, vice president of Alibaba Group and chair of Alibaba's Sustainability Steering Committee. “We are excited to join the pledge as a way to encourage a collective approach to build a sustainable and inclusive future for the society and environment through open collaboration, joint innovations and mutual inspiration."

Alibaba pledged in December 2021 to be carbon neutral by 2030. As part of this, Alibaba Cloud is also planning to have its global data centres running entirely on clean energy by 2030 by employing green technologies in its facilities. 

“We employ cutting-edge green technologies in its hyper-scale facilities, of which liquid cooling and renewable electricity storage make a considerable difference in reducing carbon emissions,” said Shanyuan Gao, general manager of Alibaba Cloud Infrastructure's Internet Data Centre Division. “For instance, in our Hangzhou data centre, server clusters are submerged in specialised liquid coolant, which quickly chills the IT hardware."

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Alibaba Cloud believes that the advanced technology housed within its data centres will become the new standard with liquid cooling being promoted throughout China and in more countries in the future.

The company is also assessing carbon management tools to help it better take advantage of energy trading schemes while also planning a more stable energy supply. This includes exploring other frontier technologies, like pumping water to store energy.

Alibaba pointed to the Yitian 710, its first proprietary chip that it unveiled last October, too. It can accommodate up to 60 billion transistors in each chip, which the company said translated into a 50% higher energy efficiency ratio compared with other models. It hopes this will make transitioning to clean energy easier as it reduces the demand on unpredictable solar and wind energy sources.

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