Data centres can make better use of residual heat

Published on 7 March 2018

The demand for electricity that is accounted for by data centres is steadily increasing. The sector has already been making a great deal of headway in terms of sustainability; however, it could become even more sustainable by making better use of residual heat. This was the conclusion reached by experts during an ICT convention organised by Berenschot on behalf of Nederland ICT and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO.

Recycling of residual heat

Berenschot conducted a preliminary study of success stories and factors, and organised an interactive dinner meeting attended by 20 stakeholders from the ICT industry, heating companies and government. The participants drew up an inventory of bottlenecks and success factors relating to the use of residual heat in data centres. It emerged that the call for renewable energy sources is increasing. In turn, a growing number of data centres are keen to supply their residual heat for this purpose. However, better use needs to be made of local opportunities. Despite the benefits that using residual heat from data centres offers, successful cases are scarce.

Advantages of data centres

Data centres could become more sustainable by making use of their residual heat. In this case, it is all about using low-temperature residual heat. Not only would it profit the built environment, the data centres themselves would benefit directly from such an arrangement, because while they are supplying heat, they would be getting a cooling medium in return. This would mean energy savings when it came to cooling their premises.

Conclusions and recommendations

The participants concluded that the location of the data centres is crucial. There would have to be recipients for the residual heat in the vicinity. Data centres, recipients, heating companies and government would need to be able to find each other without too much delay. Recommendations for closer matching of supply of and demand for residual heat:

  • Include data centres as low temperature sources in the energy and heat atlas and regional plans.
  • Identify the potential of residual heat from data centres and promising locations, both nationally and regionally.
  • Nominate an intermediary to bring stakeholders together and supervise processes at promising locations.
  • Improve the business case for investments in low temperature infrastructure.

Michiel van Werven

Michiel van Werven

Senior managing consultant