In recent years, companies like Amazon and Meta have demonstrated how data centers can be used to heat buildings. This means that waste heat should be used efficiently instead of wasting away.
In times of climate change, the focus is not only on reducing energy consumption, but also on the optimal use of energy. After all, many devices heat up during normal operation and release the electricity from the socket into their surroundings in the form of heat. Better use of this waste heat could reduce demand elsewhere.
Large technology companies see it similarly. In recent years, they have developed new areas of application for their data centers, for example not only to operate the Internet but also to heat buildings. An example of this is the city of Odense in Denmark.
Since 2020, Meta's data center has been feeding the heat generated by the servers into the city's district heating network. This has a connection to 100,000 households. Meta alone supplies around 11,000 households with heat.
Data centers can heat thousands of homes
But the Facebook Group is not the only company that uses this approach. In Ireland, for example, Amazon uses a data center to heat the Technical University of Dublin. In contrast, Microsoft's competition is building what is expected to be the world's largest data center heating system in Espoo, Finland.
The reasons for this are relatively simple. Ultimately, this practice helps technology companies fulfill their climate promises. At the same time, elected governments are showing that they are pushing Big Tech to give back to the local community.
In order for household supplies to function smoothly, partnerships with local energy companies are necessary. In Odense, for example, a cooperation was established between Meta and Fjernvarme Fyn.
In the future, the need for new computing capacity will increase
Looking forward, this practice is expected to increase due to the current boom in AI technology and the associated increase in data center construction. Major technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Meta and Amazon are expected to invest around $1 trillion in infrastructure to handle the computing demands of AI.
In the long term, an approach will emerge for the innovative use of waste heat from data centers. At the same time, the economy and the planet benefit because the heat generated can be resold profitably. Nevertheless, there are still challenges for the major tech platforms. After all, it would be particularly sustainable if data centers didn't consume so much energy in the first place.