Giant Data Center to Heat London Homes

Giant Data Center to Heat London Homes

An £80m (US $130.3 million) green data center under construction in east London will use 9 megawatts (MW) of surplus heat created by racks of servers to power residential and business properties in the surrounding area.

The nine-story facility is being built by data center specialist Telehouse West and is due to open in March next year. As well as capturing waste heat for re-use, the site will also feature a solar array designed to provide the facility with 6,000 kWh of power a year.

The decision to install the waste heat system was in part driven by strict regulations from the Greater London Authority (GLA) which stipulate that all new buildings of more than 1,000 square meters must generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewables.

Telehouse investigated combined heat and power, wind turbines, river water cooling and fuel cells as ways to meet the renewables target, but concluded that none were feasible. It estimated that it would need 10 large wind turbines to meet the target, which would be impossible to install at the site.

"The solution was to provide nearby homes with our waste heat," explained Bob Harris, technical services director at Telehouse West. "That swung the pendulum for the planners that this was a sustainable project."

Although the waste heat capture technology is roughly equivalent to providing 10 percent of the building's energy needs using renewables, the combination of the site's technical constraints and the fact the waste heat would be provided for nothing to local buildings convinced planners to authorise the project.

Harris estimates the system will save 1,100 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, compared with building the data center without a waste heat scheme.

The system will use the heat generated by computer servers to heat water which will be circulated in pipes to more than 1,000 homes in the area. The cooled water will then return to the datacentre to be heated again.

The GLA is encouraging other datacentre developers to deploy similar systems and is in discussions with Thames Gateway authorities to expand the waste heat network over a wider area of north London.

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