Waste heat from data centers powering the Nordics | HCLTech

Waste heat from data centers powering the Nordics

A growing number of data center facilities in the Nordics are using waste heat to power people's homes
6.2 min. read
Jaydeep Saha
Jaydeep Saha
Global Reporter, HCLTech
6.2 min. read
Waste heat from data centers

Each time someone uploads a selfie, chats online or streams a video, they are transmitting data to and from a server. All that information is stored virtually in the cloud. The cloud has a physical backbone that keeps it running smoothly — a data center. 

A data center is the physical space used for housing servers and associated IT infrastructure like network, storage, data backups, and security for running IT, and business applications. Its basic infrastructure includes huge power supplies, cable trays, air conditioning and fire suppression, and data communication connections.  

One such hyperscale facility in Denmark is among the growing number of facilities found in the Nordic countries. Here, internet use is helping keep people warm, providing hot water, and heating for people’s homes. 

Meta’s Odense data center is one of three in Europe that provides services for all the company’s applications – such as Facebook and WhatsApp. With the continuous upload and download of data — photos, videos, and stories, all servers running 24/7 require a huge amount of energy, which in turn produces a lot of heat. At many data centers, the heat given off is lost or wasted. But here, the hot air is trapped behind the servers and then it’s put to use. 

How does this work? 

The heat goes up through the roof where some cooling units are present. When it reaches the rooftop, the hot air flows through almost 200 heat exchanges. The data center gets cold water from a district heating system (DHS) that is supplied to a nearby pump station where the heat is elevated. When the water is received, it is 27° Celsius and then heated up to 70 degrees to be put it into the district heating grid. The residual cool air — left over from this process — is used to help cool the hot servers. 

Odense Data Center
Credits: Facebook

What is DHS? 

The DHS is a community-wide heating system that’s common in Scandinavia. According to Danish Energy Agency, the DHS is a cornerstone in Denmark’s green and efficient energy system. Not only does DHS ensure that Denmark has a sound and reliable heating supply but also supports Denmark in fulfilling long-term energy policy targets and maintaining a sustainable energy sector. In Odense, this plant provides heat for more than 10% of the 100,00 households.  

In Copenhagen, more than 98% of energy requirements are covered by DHS. Established in 1925, it is now providing heat to more than 562,000 inhabitants by generating heat from energy-efficient and low-carbon combined heat and power (CHP) plants and waste incineration plants. Around 40% of waste from Copenhagen is incinerated, producing electricity and heat in the process.  

“In Valby [a district of Copenhagen], the heat is required in two forms — accommodation heating and hot water. During winter months, we require accommodation heating to lead normal life indoors. But the hot water is a necessity round the year,” said Hrishikesh Chatterjee, Promotion Manager, MAN Energy Solutions. 

Other Nordic countries like Sweden have also embraced the idea of warming homes with recycled heat. Microsoft and Finland energy firm Fortum are now planning the world’s biggest project of this kind.  

Green data centers 

Besides the right usage of waste heat, there’s also a growing demand for green data centers across the world.  

Enterprises buy storage space from data centers, but the process is costly and not energy efficient. Responding to this challenge, HCLTech developed the Green Data Center Solutions.  

The methodology involves three phases: 

  1. Assessment: Using the assessment framework (Green IT Scorecard), an audit of the existing environment is carried out and a line is set for measuring the current energy usage and carbon footprint. This phase includes gap analysis and feasibility studies which are executed to pinpoint activities that can bring about a transformation.  
  2. Planning and design: This phase involves the creation of a roadmap for green procurement, optimization, recycling, and financial and resource planning. 
  3. Implementation: Specific technologies, data center consolidation, virtualization, power and cooling management, and IT infrastructure management are selected and implemented. In this phase, enterprises can also receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. 

HCLTech’s role in worldwide data centers 

  1. HCLTech’s data center management services are vast and varied, comprising MCOD, RecoverNXT CLOUD, BackupNXT, ROBOace, Cloud Assessment and Readiness Tool (CART), MyCloud, DRYiCETM, and SDI Innovation Garage. 
  2. HCLTech has assisted more than 100 enterprises  successfully migrate to global data centers, managing more than half a million servers globally. 
  3. In 2020, HCLTech was positioned as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Data Center Outsourcing and Hybrid Infrastructure Managed Services for North America.  

For more details on HCLTech’s sustainability ambitions, read here.

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