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Waste Heat From Computers to Warm Buildings
Green Futures, 23 Jun 09
Article Photo

by Iain Aitch and Hannah Bullock

Telecommunications company aims to hook up London site to nearby homes and offices 

Any laptop user will know that even the most casual of Twittering with a computer resting on your knees can get uncomfortably hot – so imagine the vast amount of heat that a massive IT data centre kicks out. Now telecommunications company Telehouse Europe is planning to capture that and pipe it to nearby homes and businesses.

When it opens in 2010, the nine-storey £80 million Telehouse West data centre in London’s Docklands will provide up to 9MW of ‘free heat’ – enough for water and space heating in about 450 local homes.

Telehouse intends to install a heat exchange unit to pump water, warmed by the data centre’s cooling systems, to the perimeter of the site, from where a developer can pipe it on to their own site and use a heat exchanger to warm or cool buildings.

Barratt Homes had shown an interest in using the resource in housing planned for the adjacent site, says Martyn Bishop of WSP UK, the engineering consultancy working with Telehouse on the project, but the development is on hold due to funding difficulties, so the hot water is still up for grabs.

Telehouse isn’t planning to charge for the hot water, but would expect a contribution to an appropriately sized heat exchanger on its own site. “They’re going to get free energy for life, so it’s not an insignificant offer,” he adds.

If the waste heat is used to the full, it should result in an overall annual saving of 1,110 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

This piece originally appeared in Green Futures. Green Futures is published by Forum for the Future, one of the leading magazines on environmental solutions and sustainable futures. Its aim is to demonstrate that a sustainable future is both practical and desirable – and can be profitable, too.

Photo credit: Flickr/deletem3, Creative Commons License.

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