Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Sweden Scales Datacenter Heat Recycling 


A Swedish data park seeking to attract major datacenter operators is upgrading a five-year-old effort to recover and distribute heat generated by datacenters to a local energy company.

Stockholm Data Parks along with power grid provider Ellevio and fiber operator Stokab are expanding efforts to attract datacenter operations based on a heat recovery marketplace called Open District Heating. The partners announced this week that Swedish fashion retailer H&M (STO: HM-B) has agreed to build a new datacenter in Stockholm with cooling and heat recovery integrated into the design.

The Swedish energy company Fortum Värme will distribute heat recovered from the state-of-the-art H&M datacenter to customers throughout the Swedish capital. The datacenter is being designed to handle workloads requiring 1 megawatt of electricity, generating enough heat to supply about 2,500 apartments across the city.

Separately, the retailer announced over the weekend it is expanding operations across India to include new stores and online shopping. The online component is scheduled for launched in 2018, according to reports out of New Delhi.

The new datacenter uses heat pumps in a datacenter configuration called N+1 designed to provide parallel redundancy to ensure an uninterruptable power supply is always available. It also includes redundant cooling and heat recovery capabilities.

Scandinavian countries have pioneered datacenter heat recovery and cooling techniques that take advantage of northern climes. IBM (NYSE: IBM) became the first datacenter operator in Sweden to recover and supply heat beginning in 1979. The City of Stockholm launched the Open District Heating marketplace in 2012.

Other datacenter operators already supply excess heat to Fortum Värme, including Swedish networking and telecom equipment vendor Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Dutch datacenter colocation specialist Interxion (NYSE: INXN).

The energy company has so far attracted more than 10,000 residential and commercial customers in the Stockholm area.

H&M began recovering heat from its Swedish datacenters in 2013. The partners said the integrated datacenter that is scheduled to open next year underscores plans to recover datacenter heat on a larger scale.

"So far, datacenters have been built with little consideration for the environment," Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngård noted in a statement promoting the effort. "We want to change that. We want future datacenters to be even more cost efficient and truly green. With that objective, we are determined to make Stockholm a major hub for sustainable datacenters."

Along with cheap energy and large-scale heat recovery, Stockholm Data Parks is offering prospective customers free cooling, which accounts for a large percentage of datacenter operating costs.

"It’s important for us to be as sustainable as possible in everything we do," explained Jan Lundin, who oversees H&M's datacenter operations. "It will be imperative for future datacenters to recover excess heat."

These and other sustainability efforts are steadily moving datacenter operations away from standard air-cooling.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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