Utilising Data Centre Heat

October 7, 2021

We know that data centres produce huge amounts of surplus heat and that, more often than not, this is simply released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. We also know that there is increasing pressure for new data centres to respond to the European Commission’s Strategy on Heating and Cooling by finding ways of harnessing heat that would otherwise be wasted. Achieving the climate targets requires a transition to carbon-neutral energy, away from combustion-based energy solutions. By using waste heat produced in data centres, the achievement of the climate targets can be accelerated significantly. There are numerous innovative solutions to enable data centre operators to recover and repurpose surplus heat. These include, for example, utilising residual heat on site; recovering surplus heat to provide energy for subsequent cooling cycles, or diverting it into a district heat grid for use – at reduced cost – in local buildings. Depending on the location, these might include hospitals, university halls of residence, or social housing.

Sessions from this talk

Today we know to cool a data centre air cooling solutions are mostly blowing around the air and allowing it to expel into the air. But what if we could harness that heat, through liquid cooling, and heat millions of homes across the globe? The answer to that isn’t a simple one, and it will take lots of economic investment, infrastructure, and political influence to get us there. But this heat utilisation could give us a truly renewable energy resource.
David Davies from Arup, representing the EUDCA and its commitment to the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, joins Damien Wells to discuss his own experience in waste heat utilisation from data centre facilities. David explores the challenges that the industry is currently facing when looking to utilise waste heat and explores how these may be overcome in the future.
The topic of energy required to run all digital infrastructure continues to be an important one. Following on from the earlier Digital Infra Network presentation on the future of energy, the link between energy and information is at the heart of a concept called combined heat and computation. Energy consumption and heat generation is an inevitable consequence of the need for more data processing. Therefore, rejecting the heat into the environment without recovery to displace other energy intensive processes that require heat is now regarded as unsustainable. But heat reuse from data centres has challenges as demonstrated via analysis of the RISE testbeds.
While modern data center are becoming more and more efficient, as seen with the constantly decreasing Power Usage Effectiveness indicator (PUE), reusing waste heat produced by hardware remains a significant challenge today and for the years to come. Because of its low temperature (30°C-60°C), the aforementioned waste heat is often defined as low-grade. As a result, it is not suitable for many applications like electricity generation and is hard to transport across long distances. It can however be used for many heating applications. Adding waste heat reuse solutions to current data center architectures is also highly complex and comes at a significant cost. One alternative is to distribute the heat source directly where it is needed by tightly integrating computing hardware with the water delivery systems in buildings, like Qarnot does. In addition, the Carbon Facts addon let’s the system precisely determine the carbon footprint of each calculation made on the infrastructure.
How is realised the useful heat rejection from data center in European countries? Do we measure the efficiency of Combined Heat Compute and what is the best cases? What is the potential of synergy between data centers and new generation of Industrial processes in reducing the global warming? All these questions and more will be answered in this immersive presentation.

Speakers in this Session


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