Waste heat utilization: municipalities are required to act
According to a study by Bitkom, data centers in Germany generate electricity consumption of around ten terawatt hours (TWh) per year. That is around 1.8 percent of total German electricity consumption. The powerful performance of the computers causes the equipment to reach high temperatures. When these run at full capacity, overheating can occur. Private devices, such as smartphones, can simply be switched off for a while. In data centers, however, this is not an option. After all, the data stored there must be available around the clock.
In addition, a large part of the energy escapes unused into the environment in the form of heat. However, the excess heat could be reused as a heating source. To guarantee efficient and smooth performance of the IT components, overheating of the processors must be avoided. There are various cooling methods for this purpose. The heat is then extracted and fed into a suitable heat network.
In principle, a distinction is made between local and district heating networks. In a local heating network, the waste heat is used in the immediate vicinity. District heating networks, on the other hand, often extend over entire urban areas. Here, more energy and thus a higher temperature is required due to the large radius. The large quantities of water that would otherwise be needed would require huge pipelines.
Possible consumers of waste heat
There are various possible consumers for waste heat. An obvious example is the heating of the adjacent office and utility areas of the company’s own data center. But the alternative heating method is also suitable for adjacent residential and commercial areas. A district heating network can even heat entire city districts.
Another innovative solution is the conversion of heat into cold using absorption chillers. This is particularly suitable in city centers, where stores and office buildings are air-conditioned.
Local authorities need to act
However, there is often a lack of the necessary infrastructure to network data centers with potential consumers of waste heat. On the one hand, because it is often not clear who is responsible for initiating the necessary processes. On the other, there is a lack of capacity and know-how for implementation. Local authorities also often forget about the data center when planning new residential or commercial areas. Yet the regional planning phase would be the ideal time to create the necessary infrastructures for an energy-efficient data center. After all, the use of Internet services continues to grow.
For more information and to read the full expert article by Herbert Radlinger, VP Projects & Solutions at NDC-GARBE, click here.