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Using waste heat from data centers to provide heating for facilities and nearby homes has been gaining traction. For instance, IBM has been looking into how to heat nearby homes with waste heat from it's data centers. Now one data center in Finland to be housed underneath Uspenski Cathedral - a popular tourist attraction - will warm up surrounding homes with its waste heat. Reuters reports that by using waste heat to warm up water pipes and channeling it to nearby homes, the planned data center for information technology services firm Academica would be capable of providing enough heat to warm up 500 large private houses - equivalent to a large wind turbine. And that's while using about half of the energy of a typical data center of similar size through energy efficiency measures.
"It is perfectly feasible that a quite considerable proportion of the heating in the capital city could be produced from thermal energy generated by computer halls," said Juha Sipila, project manager at Helsingin Energia.
Half of the energy used by data centers goes towards cooling down the servers. As data center energy consumption (about 1% of all electricity consumption globally goes to data centers) and emissions output (about a third of that of the airline industry and growing around 10% a year) rise, utilizing their waste heat to reduce the amount of energy needed for heating other buildings will go a long way in offsetting their impact.
We certainly aren't going to reduce our drive towards having more information at our digital fingertips, so the next best thing to do is figure out how to make data centers as energy efficient as possible. Microsoft, Google, and other companies are working hard on innovative solutions to data center infrastructure and servers themselves. But it is also encouraging to see companies working on using by-products of data centers to offset our energy consumption in other sectors.
The new data center will go online in January, and after being fully executed, the data center and its helpful heat will save $561,000 a year from the Acadamia's annual power bill.