Transporting waste heat from a data center and using it elsewhere isn’t easy. It is so difficult, in fact, that some companies looking to make use of their waste heat break up their data centers instead, installing servers very close to homes and offices so that waste heat can effectively be used to heat them.
The idea of exporting heat has not lost its steam for Swedish utility, Fortum, however. An article on the Datacenter Dynamics website describes the company’s Fortum Varme system in Stockholm, Sweden, which uses district heating to heat homes and offices. Once Fortum had its district heating system in place—small combined heat and power (CHP) plants built near residential areas—it knew that it could plug in any other source of waste heat.
By offering “district cooling” services to data centers, Fortum pays data centers to remove their waste heat, which it then uses to fuel its CHP plants.
Such a system may be a boon for data centers, turning an otherwise costly process into a profit center. However, it is realistic only where there is an established district heating system in place, the article concludes.
These types of innovative approaches to energy management may help Sweden in its effort to attract more data centers. A government task force in Sweden is studying how a tax reduction might lure more data centers to the country.
Here in the United States, Amazon is planning to use district heat for some of its buildings in downtown Seattle.
Photo via Shutterstock.