Data centers with low energy and resource consumption

Reducing the energy consumption of data centers is an important step toward making digitization more sustainable. Key factors here are efficient cooling, intelligent use of waste heat, and the use of electricity that is as CO2-neutral as possible.

A data center produces heat throughout the year. Ideally, this heat should be purchased continuously. Therefore, finding suitable consumers is a major challenge in waste heat utilization. Many newer data centers use the waste heat within the data center itself. However, to better exploit the potential of waste heat, it is necessary to think more comprehensively. Sweden is a pioneer here. The Scandinavian country is considered an ideal location for data centers due to its cool climate, which means less electricity is needed for cooling. At the same time, the country relies on district heating for its energy supply. This makes it easy to systematically use the waste heat from the data centers, as it can easily be fed into the district heating network, warming the connected apartments. The Elementica data center is the latest example. Fully expanded, the data center is expected to recover up to 112 gigawatt hours of heat per year, enough to meet the heating needs of a city with 20,000 inhabitants.
Server heat for apartments, swimming pools and greenhouses

Of course, it is also conceivable not only to feed the surplus heat into local and district heating networks, but also to use it to supply buildings such as swimming pools, laundries or greenhouses that require heat on a permanent basis. There are already initial examples of this. In Paris, a swimming pool is supplied with heat from the servers of the animation studio next door. And the Irish company Ecologic Datacentres is currently planning a data center that uses waste heat from water cooling to grow vegetables in greenhouses.

But such projects are usually only feasible if IT service providers, energy suppliers and city planners work together and, for example, IT service providers are specifically located and connected to the heating network. In Germany, this has rarely happened so far.