In an effort to become more environmentally conscious, an innovative idea to recycle heat has recently gained popularity.
This plan proposes to use leftover heat from data centers to provide energy for residential areas. But first, what exactly is a data center?
Data Centers: A Source Of Heat
When you upload your pictures or videos on social media or use Google Docs for your school assignments, have you wondered where this information is stored?
A data center is a large facility that contains a network of computing and storage resources, and where all kinds of information are stored. The components of most data centers include routers, servers, and controllers.
While these centers help organizations store data, they also require billions of gallons of water to be up and running. Water and electricity are necessary to manage the quality of the centers and keep them cool due to the excess amount of heat they generate. However, researchers have found a way to use this heat energy in other, more environmentally friendly ways.
Generally, the heat generated from these centers falls between 80°F to 115°F. In order to reuse this heat, small parts of data centers are taken to where heat is required.
The heat that radiates from the hardware in the data center can be diverted to nearby homes and businesses through a network of insulated pipes. These pipes deliver thermal energy in the form of hot water.
As with any new trial demonstration, there are a few problems with this method. To begin with, large data centers tend to be located away from residential areas. They are usually located in industrial areas, making it difficult for the heat to travel efficiently. In addition, most produce lower temperatures of heat which then has to be compressed into higher temperatures of heat. The process is expensive and grueling, making companies avoid the matter as a whole.
Despite the complications, finding ways to make recycling heat even more accessible and efficient is key because this process can help power a countless number of neighborhoods with minimal expense. Studies state that excess heat from data centers can even power most of Europe!
A Few Shining Examples!
A public swimming pool in Devon, U.K is one of the first to implement this type of energy usage.
The swimming pool is connected to a box of computers which are surrounded by oil to capture the heat. The hot oil is then pumped into a heat exchanger to warm the water in the pool. The box heats the pool to 86°F about 60% of the time. This saves the organization a great deal of money, allowing the pool to continue to stay open for public use.
Aside from swimming pools, data centers can also be used to help communities. In Tallaght, Ireland, people began constructing a network for this recycling process in 2021. This network is now used to generate hot water through an energy center and pumps heat for the entire town's needs.
Another instance includes a data center in Paris that uses leftover heat energy to provide heat to a Climate Change Arboretum, an institution in which the effects of climate change are studied.
Ultimately, using data centers to provide heat is a very useful and innovative idea. Not only does it use leftover heat, which previously was simply let out into the environment, but it also reduces the dependence on fossil fuels to provide energy.
Sources: BBC, Euronews, Cisco, Axios