Future views on waste heat utilization - case of data centers in Northern Europe

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In this study the potential for data center waste heat utilization was analyzed in the Nordic countries. An overview of upcoming data center projects where waste heat is utilized is presented. Especially in Finland data center operators are planning to reuse waste heat in district heating. However, business models between the district heating network operator and data center operator are often not transparent. The implications of economics and emissions on waste heat utilization in district heating were analyzed through life cycle assessment. Currently the biggest barriers for utilizing waste heat are the low quality of waste heat (e.g. low temperature or unstable source of heat) and high investment costs. A systematic 8-step change process was suggested to ensure success in changing the priority of waste heat utilization in the data center and district heating market. Relevant energy efficiency metrics were introduced to support rational decision-making in the reuse of waste heat. Economic calculations showed that the investment payback time is under the estimated lifetime of the heat pump equipment, when waste heat was utilized in district heating. However, the environmental impact of waste heat utilization depends on the fuel, which waste heat replaces.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1749-1764
Number of pages16
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Issue numberPart 2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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