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Europe wants to send data centers into space — study says it's possible

The rise of artificial intelligence is skyrocketing demand for data centers to keep pace with the growing tech sector — and pushing Europe to explore space options for digital storage, in a bid to reduce its need for energy-hungry facilities on the ground.

Advanced Space Cloud for European Net zero emission and Data sovereignty, a 16-month long study that explored the feasibility of launching data centers into orbit, has come to a "very encouraging" conclusion, according to Damien Dumestier, manager of the project.

The 2 million-euro ($2.1 million) ASCEND study, coordinated by Thales Alenia Space on behalf of the European Commission, claims that space-based data centers are technically, economically and environmentally feasible.

"The idea [is] to take off part of the energy demand for data centers and to send them in space in order to benefit from infinite energy, which is solar energy," Dumestier told CNBC.

Data centers are essential for keeping pace with digitalization, but also require significant amounts of electricity and water to power and cool their servers. The total global electricity consumption from data centers could reach more than 1,000 terrawatt-hours in 2026 —that's roughly equivalent to the electricity consumption of Japan, according to the International Energy Agency.

The industry is about to be hit with a "wave of data tsunami," said Merima Dzanic, head of strategy and operations at the Danish Data Center Industry Association.

"AI data centers need something like three times more energy than a traditional data center and that is a problem not just on the energy side, but also the consumption side," she told CNBC.

A "whole different approach to how we build, design and operate data centers," is required,