Alibaba Group joins Low Carbon Patent Pledge

Alibaba Group pledges to make nine energy efficiency patents technology available for free for the first time.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited has joined the Low Carbon Patent Pledge (LCPP), an international platform that encourages the sharing of patents for low carbon technologies, to accelerate the adoption of green technology and the fostering of collaborative innovation by making nine key patents for green data centre technology available for free to external parties. In keeping with its support for green initiatives, Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, also aims to have its global data centers running entirely on clean energy by 2030, starting with upgrades to five of its hyper-scale data centres in China.

Joining the coalition of various pledgors from the international society, the initiative marks the first time that Alibaba Group has pledged to offer critical intellectual property on sustainability broadly available, which reinforces its long-standing commitment to achieving a low-carbon and sustainable future for society through forging broader cooperation. The nine patents offered are part of Alibaba’s green data centre technologies, including the unique "soaking server" cooling system that Alibaba Cloud has deployed for its data centres since 2015. This non-mechanical cooling measure leads to energy savings of over 70% compared to traditional mechanical cooling.

“We believe technology innovation is a key driver in transitioning to the low-carbon circular economy of the future. 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 wider social groups, creating long-term value. We are excited to join the pledge as a way to encourage a collective approach to building a sustainable and inclusive future for society and the environment through open collaboration, joint innovations and mutual inspiration,” said Dr. Chen Long, Vice President of Alibaba Group and Chair of Alibaba’s Sustainability Steering Committee.

The Low Carbon Pledge Patent was launched on Earth Day 2021 by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, and Meta with the mission of promoting low carbon technologies and fostering collaborative innovation. Professor Jorge Contreras, academic expert on patent pledges, notes: “The addition of these companies strengthens the Low Carbon Patent Pledge and reflects the reality that all sectors of industry can contribute to the effort to accelerate the transition to low carbon energy sources.”

Greening Data Centres with Technology

As an infrastructure provider for a green economy, Alibaba Cloud is also committing to having its global data centres running entirely on clean energy by 2030 by employing cutting-edge green technologies in these facilities.

Shanyuan Gao, General Manager of Alibaba Cloud Infrastructure’s Internet Data Center Division, said: “Eco-friendly data centres are critical to Alibaba’s sustainable operations. 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. For instance, in our Hangzhou data centre, server clusters are submerged in specialised liquid coolant, which quickly chills the IT hardware.”

Alibaba Cloud’s Zhangbei data centre employs the same method, which contributed to it earning a Green Power Consumption Certificate from the Beijing Electric Power Exchange Center in 2021, recognising the facility as the first in China to use heat-pump technology. As Alibaba Cloud builds a secure and resilient global infrastructure network, it believes that the advanced technology housed within the data centres will become the new standard with liquid cooling being promoted throughout China and in more countries in the future.

While clean energy solves many issues, its use brings its own set of challenges. The energy supply from solar and wind sources can be fickle, delivering full power when the weather is fair and windy but failing to produce when conditions change. To address that, Alibaba Cloud is assessing carbon management tools to help it better take advantage of energy trading schemes while also planning a more stable energy supply. Alibaba Cloud is also exploring other frontier technologies, like pumping water to store energy, a common way to conserve renewable energy until it is needed.

To help cut electricity use further, Alibaba launched its first proprietary chip, the Yitian 710. The Yitian 710 can accommodate up to 60 billion transistors in each chip, translating into a 50% higher energy efficiency ratio compared with other models. This will make transitioning to clean energy easier as it reduces demand on unpredictable solar and wind energy sources.

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