Thousands of residents in the Dutch region of Groningen will soon find their homes being heated by waste heat from local data centers.
QTS is the latest data center operator to team up with local utility WarmteStad to connect its facility to Groningen’s district heating network. This required the construction of a special facility that would capture and concentrate the heat generated by the data center before dissipating it through existing plumbing.
In this case, the data center effectively replaces a central boiler used to heat the water used to heat houses, shops and institutions in the northern part of Groningen.
If all this sounds familiar, QTS is not the only data center working with WarmteStad on the district heating project. Earlier this year, Dutch data center company Bytesnet partnered with Boston Ltd and WarmteStad to recycle waste heat from its facilities to heat homes in the Groningen region.
To capture the heat, Bytesnet uses 21-inch Supermicro OCP-compliant servers submerged in Asperitas immersion cooling tanks. These tanks are filled with a dielectric fluid, which uses convection to cool the components of the city’s municipal water system
By 2026, WarmteStad expects to generate enough energy from these plants to heat more than 10,000 households. A side effect of district heating operated by data centers is that local natural gas connections are no longer necessary, thereby reducing CO2 emissions.
Meanwhile, Finland’s largest energy company, Fortum, partnered with Microsoft on a district heating project this spring. Similar to QTS and Bytesnet, the project consisted of extracting waste heat from Microsoft’s new data center in Helsinki and sending the heated water to the surrounding towns of Espoo, Kauniainen and the municipality of Kirkkonummi.
Microsoft and Fortum estimate that when completed, the data center will provide heat to around 100,000 of the region’s 250,000 residents and reduce carbon emissions by 400,000 tons.
While district heating isn’t as common in the US—typically only in campus settings like colleges and universities—it’s far more common in Europe, where utility companies are increasingly partnering with data centers.
That’s partly because the ability to reuse data center waste heat is typically limited to colder climates, and much of the infrastructure required for these types of partnerships is located in northern Europe, according to a report by the Uptime Institute this fall.
And while reducing carbon emissions is often cited as part of these projects, data center heat reuse can often result in higher energy consumption, as heat pumps are required to increase the outlet water temperature. However, analysts found that the higher energy consumption compared to other heating methods is offset by the reduction in CO2 emissions. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/12/21/datacenter_district_heating/ QTS data center to heat thousands of Dutch homes • The Register