Data centre waste heat warms UK homes

For the first time in the UK, thousands of households will benefit from the waste heat generated by computer data centres, due to a share of nearly £65 million of government funding for 5 green heating projects across the country.

The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation in the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham, Brent and Ealing will be the first of its kind to recycle waste heat from large computer systems storing internet data to supply heating for the local community.

Supported by a £36 million government grant, this heat network will connect 10,000 new residences and 250,000 square metres of commercial space to a low-carbon energy source, ensuring affordable energy bills and contributing to the UK’s ambitious goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

It is one of 5 innovative green heating projects in London, Watford, Suffolk and Lancaster allocated grants from the Green Heat Network Fund. Together they are expected to create thousands of skilled jobs, helping deliver the government’s promise to grow the economy.

One of these successful projects will see Lancaster University fully decarbonise its campus, by receiving over £21 million in support for a new low-carbon heat network. The heat network will supply heat to the university campus using a large heat pump, powered by a new solar farm and existing wind turbine.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said:

Innovative projects, like these announced today, are another example of why the UK is a world leader in cutting carbon emissions.

We are investing in the technologies of the future so that families across the country will now be able to warm their homes with low-carbon, recycled heat – while creating thousands of new skilled jobs.

Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, said:

Keeping homes warm with waste heat from technology is a glimpse into the future – and demonstrates just how innovative this country can be when it comes to reducing our carbon emissions.

The £65 million we’ve awarded today will help spread this success across the country, by rolling out innovative low-carbon heating to help to drive down energy bills and deliver our net zero goal.

Heat networks supply heating and hot water to homes and businesses via heat pumps or sources from underground, manufacturing, and waste management. They help cut carbon emissions by supplying heat to multiple buildings from a central source, avoiding the need for households and workplaces to rely on individual, energy-intensive heating solutions, such as gas boilers.

The transition to heat networks forms a major part of the UK’s carbon reduction commitment, with heating in buildings making up 30% of all UK emissions.

This round of funding comes on top of £122 million already awarded to support 11 new heat network projects across the country, under the government’s Green Heat Network Fund.

Matthew Basnett, the Association for Decentralised Energy’s (ADE) Heat Network Policy Lead, said:

Heat decarbonisation in buildings is a huge challenge, and one that is often fundamentally misunderstood – heat networks are the only internationally proven route for decarbonising heat at scale, yet most people don’t know what they are.

We are excited to see that another round of the Green Heat Network Fund has been successful, and celebrate the news that a first-in-the-UK development will use waste heat from data centres to keep more than 10,000 homes warm, comfortable and affordable in the long term. We now look forward to seeing the government work with industry to raise the profile of heat networks as a versatile solution for heat decarbonisation.

David Lunts, Chief Executive of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), said:

Recycling the huge amounts of wasted heat from our local data centres into heat and energy for local residents, a major hospital and other users is an exciting and innovative example of OPDC’s support for the mayor’s net zero ambitions.

We are excited to be leading the way in developing low carbon infrastructure, supporting current and future generations of Londoners in Old Oak and Park Royal to live more sustainably.

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