New Dutch data centre will heat people’s homes
Amsterdam will be the first city in Holland to have a data centre that can harness its excess heat for use in the wider community.
The facility is being built by , specialists in commercial property development. The data centre will be over 1mn square feet in size and will consist of three, 80-metre high towers located next to Amsterdam’s Telegraaf Media Group head office in the Western Docklands.
Data centre restrictions
Earlier this year, a one-year moratorium on data centre construction was lifted in Amsterdam, allowing developers to resume projects. The directive was put in place following concerns that data centre demands on the local power grid and land requirements were spiralling out of control.
New legislation now allows developments to continue if restrictions on power budgets and floor space are strictly observed.
The new data centre will also, as a concession, provide energy for use by local homes and businesses. Waste heat from the Amsterdam facility will serve the district heating network of Westpoort Warmte, a joint venture between Nuon, a Vattenfall company, and the Municipality of Amsterdam.
Such practices are more commonplace in the Nordics where district heating systems are compatible with sharing the excess heat.
The heat-sharing concept has been under consideration for some time in Amsterdam, according to reports. In 2018, the local government in Amsterdam said it was hoping to use excess heat from data centres aiding the city’s project to eliminate gas-fired central heating by 2050.
Equinix was reportedly planning to divert heat to several buildings at the University of Amsterdam. The company had plans to deliver 100% of its residual heat to the district heating network, supplying around 70,000 buildings.
Following on from that, this September, CyrusOne announced it was partnering with the Municipality of Haarlem and business park PolanenPark to research capturing waste heat at its Amsterdam I data centre.
The company leading the heat collection and distribution project is Vattenfall - a Swedish enterprise currently working with district heating networks across Europe. In 2019, Swedish power company Vattenfall and AEB announced it would invest $474mn over the next three years into growing out their district heating network.
News of Amsterdam’s new data centre project comes hot on the heels of Facebook’s recent announcement that it is embarking on a sizable expansion project at its hyperscale data centre in Odense, Denmark.
The 50,000 square metre facility, which will result in more than 160,000 MWh of recycled energy, is being built out with almost 30,000 square metres of additional floor space. The $1.5bn project will cost an estimated $1.5bn and will employ up to 900 construction workers at its peak.
As part of Facebook’s sustainability goals, the excess energy will be captured and used to heat 11,000 homes in the local area. The Odense data centre was also recently granted a LEED Gold certification for energy efficiency.
It said, “This new project will lead to the realisation of the second data centre of the Caransa Group. It will be the most energy-efficient data centre in Amsterdam and fits perfectly with Amsterdam’s climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in 2025.”
The statement concluded, “As the present generation of data centres consumes large amounts of energy, it’s crucial that technologies such as thermal storage and other cutting-edge systems are used. In combination with continuous monitoring of energy consumption, they will result in significant energy savings for the new data centre.”
NUS and NTU launch cooling project for tropical data centres
The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), have announced a project in an attempt to source and develop new cooling solutions for data centres located in tropical areas. According to the companies, the programme costs S$23mn (US$17.1mn) and plans to research, build and test innovative and sustainable cooling solutions.
The Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT)
The NUS and NTU say that the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) will act as a research point and innovation hub for the project. Facebook, along with the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), is also involved, providing funding for the programme. Further support from other partners includes the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Ascenix, CoolestDC Keppel Data Centres, Red Dot Analytics, and New Media Express.
Commenting on working with the companies, Facebook Vice President of Infrastructure, Alex Johnson, said: “We are excited about the opportunity to partner NUS, NTU, Keppel Data Centres and the CoolestSG community to develop innovative solutions that reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of the average data centre, particularly those located in tropical areas like Singapore”.
The NTU and NUS highlight that Singapore houses 60% of Southeast Asia’s total data centre market, and aims to supply 12% of the country’s total energy needs by 2030. This results in the need to reduce the carbon footprints and power consumption of data centres, meaning more innovative cooling solutions are required, the NTU and NUS said.
Professor Chen Thuan, Deputy President of Research & Technology at the NUS, said: “Data centres are a critical enabler of the digital economy, but the average data centre can exert a significant environmental burden. Aligned with RIE 2025, sustainability is a key research focus of NUS, and our researchers have deep expertise in developing integrated solutions for tropical, urban and Asian settings”.
How will the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) help to provide cooling solutions?
According to the NUS and NTU, the STDCT will be built using equipment such as a novel desiccant-coated heat exchanger and a StatePoint Liquid Cooling System (SPLC) designed by both Nortek Air Solutions and Facebook. The institutions also say they will adopt chip-level hybrid cooling to ensure servers remain cool.
Furthermore, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will aim to manage the “smart operations” of the technologies so that the data centres are water and power efficient, as well as able to preserve equipment and servers.
The NTU and NSU said in a joint statement the combination of the cooling technologies could reduce energy consumption “significantly” and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25%, compared to traditional air-cooled data centres. If adopted industry-wide across the entire tropical region, the energy usage of the data centre industry could potentially be lowered by at least 40%”, the companies said.
The STDCT is expected to be operational by 1 October 2021.