Afonso Salema of Start Campus Appears on datacenterHawk for a conversation Exploring the Future of Data Centers

Afonso Salema, CEO of Start Campus, joins host

David Liggitt for a conversation about the history and future of data centers on the latest episode of datacenterHawk.

Salema dives into his background in investment banking and his transition into the data center world. With nearly 20 years of experience advising on infrastructure and utilities, he brings a unique perspective to the industry. Salema began as an industrial engineer before transitioning into investment banking. His expertise focused on infrastructure, utilities, and large-scale projects, providing valuable insights into advisory roles for private equity firms and utilities.

Salema discusses the core strategy of Start Campus, driven by two global trends: the shift toward renewable energy sources and the digital transition. He highlights the recent changes seen across multiple industries to strive for more renewable energy options and discusses how repurposing infrastructure left behind by the power transition can help accomplish sustainability goals. Salema continues by sharing how the second shift — digital transition — is industrializing the data center industry, growing much more resource-intensive and complex when it comes to managing data center operations. Data centers must be extra attentive to the resources they use for their facilities. The challenge is merging these two trends, ensuring data centers are responsible for resource usage while providing necessary power and cooling to their customers. 

He expounds on the challenges faced by the industry when transitioning to renewable energy sources, emphasizing the need to challenge the idea that sustainability is an additional cost. In the episode, he shares insights into how companies can ensure 24/7 sustainable power sourcing without “greenwashing” — the practice of exaggerating sustainability to appear eco-friendly. 


Salema explains why data center construction is increasingly migrating to areas outside of cities, where they are not competing with real estate and housing demand. This also reduces the potential draw on resources, especially where water is scarce. He also highlights the advantages of moving data rather than power, predominantly that moving a photon rather than an electron is much easier. 

Looking ahead, he and the host discuss the areas of innovation that Start Campus aims to focus on in the coming years. He touches on integrating data center operations with the grid, exploring cooling alternatives, and carbon mitigation strategies to neutralize their environmental impact. Beyond sustainability, Salema believes that connectivity will be a game-changer for the industry. He anticipates an explosion of connectivity across the globe, driven not only by AI and data growth but also by geopolitics, demanding greater resilience and tighter connectivity meshes on a global scale.

This interview provides valuable insights into the future of data centers and their pivotal role in the evolving landscape of renewable energy, sustainability, and global connectivity. To listen to the full episode, visit Spotify or Apple Podcasts.