Who knew that browsing the Internet could make people’s homes warm?

Date: 24/02/2017

Great news for inhabitants of Stockholm: The warmth of their homes could come from a simple (and sometimes wasteful) activity people indulge in everyday – browsing the internet.

To achieve its green objective of becoming free from fossil fuels by 2040, Stockholm is aiming to source 10% of its needed heat from data centers. Therefore, in collaboration with numerous partners, Stockholm is looking to aid several large data centers to go there, then harness and channel the heat generated from these centers’ servers into a local district heating system.

Although the city’s local district heating system – Fortum Värme – is already working with a few small data centers, the final aim is to scale up by capitalising on this new initiative. To attract more companies to set up even more data centers in Stockholm, the partners are providing many large sites with ready-to-use heat recovery, cooling, power, and dark fiber infrastructure. In addition, there is a tax credit to bring down electricity costs.

To tackle the problem of excess heat generated by data centers and a subsequent large carbon footprint, the new Stockholm Data Parks initiative will be directed at data centers functioning on renewable, low-cost energy. The district heating company could buy this excess heat, or as a service it may even be exchanged for free cooling.

For decades, Stockholm’s district heating system delivered heat through hot water to multiple buildings, and earlier, fossil fuels occasionally served as the heat source. Fortum Värme is looking to curb that by trying to use biomass or waste heat as a better and greener option. Also, a full district heating system like this enables large scale heat reuse from data centers.

Thanks to initiatives like these, a Stockholm data center could become truly carbon positive, a contrast to other data centers running on renewable energy with no district heating system in place. 20,000 apartments could be heated up, and emissions could be slashed down by a whopping 8,000 metric tons, with just one 10 megawatt data center!