back to article Microsoft datacenter to heat homes in Finland

Microsoft and Finland's largest energy company have partnered to build a new datacenter near Helsinki that will heat homes as it cools servers. Microsoft and Fortum made the announcement today after several years of development, with the final location chosen specifically for the purpose of moving waste datacenter heat via …

  1. AndrueC Silver badge

    What do they do with the heat in summer? At least if you're burning fuel to provide the heat you can turn the burners down or off in the summer but presumably in this case the data centre will have to switch to active cooling. That would offset at least some of the gains.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Use the heat to drive turbines, which then produce electricity to run the servers.

      Look at the icon. LOOK AT IT! -->

      1. Lars Silver badge

        @Throatwarbler Mangrove

        I am looking at your icon, and I think it's the wrong icon.

        Using heat to drive turbines is how nuclear energy is used to create electricity and of course your fridge is using heat to get cold.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      That's the normal problem with these schemes.

      Unless you are doing it for pure green-washing it massively increases the cost. You have to build the worst case cooling plant, to handle the full load in the hottest summer AND the infrastructure to move a lot of low grade heat to the community in winter.

      You also have the maintenance problem that each of these systems is shut down for half the time.

      1. ilmari

        Presumably Microsoft's datacentre will also be connected to Fortum's district cooling grid. Trigeneration CCHP plants are remarkably efficient.

      2. KurtL

        What you claim is complete nonsense. Nowadays there are servers specifically designed for hot water cooling, with inflow temperatures over 30 degrees C. In countries with a very moderate climate such as Finland you have year round free cooling with such servers. The only problem you may still have is that on the hottest days you may need to use a technique that relies on some evaporation, which is why you sometimes hear about water use by data centres.

        At the current energy prices this is more than worth the effort.

      3. midgepad Bronze badge

        Cooling shut down half the time?

        Seems optimistic.

        Also, when would you mot build the worst case cooling ststem for your DC?

        Too much heat: open some windows.

    3. Evil Scot


      ... Or showers water needs neating.

      Also Artic Circle.

      1. tonique

        Re: Baths

        Espoo is 700 km to the south from the Arctic Circle! It is not much to the north of the latitude of Lerwick, Shetland Islands!

        1. Lars Silver badge

          Re: Baths


          Regarding Lerwick, Shetland Islands (60.155°N 1.145°W) and Espoo, Finland (60°12′20″N 024°39′20″E).

          The thing to remember is that the Golf Stream doesn't enter the Baltic and the Bay of Finland.

          1. tonique

            Re: Baths

            You're right. I was just trying to make a comparison to a place that Britons could find easily on the map.

    4. IceC0ld

      it's Finland

      their idea of Summer, is still a touch cooler than our winter

      but at least it is a step, admittedly a small one, but one step anyway, imagine ANY Co doing this 20 years ago ..................

    5. DS999 Silver badge

      Heat saunas?

      People in Finland love their saunas!

    6. JassMan

      What do they do with the heat in summer?

      Don't know what the evil empire will do with it but what they SHOULD be doing is pushing it into a big pit in the ground. Then the next winter they will be able to provide heat for twice as many homes. It may sound counter-intuitive to build a really big centralised thermal store but for any underground store, if you double the radius, the losses only go up by the square but the amount of heat stored goes up by the cube.

      If you think big enough you can have a low temperature store for low quality heat as above, surrounding a high temperature store. The high temp store could store heat from a Solar Power Tower (SPT) at the same time in order to generate electricity.

      Any country such as the UK really should be investing in filling an old quarry with salt and using excess wind-power to to melt the salt so that the heat can be recovered to run steam turbines on days when there is less wind. Obvs it would be even better if you can find a quarry next to a south facing hill for your SPT.

      1. JassMan

        reply to myself because I ran out of time for edit

        It is a shame that this is too big an idea for the Tories to grasp. They would rather waste billions building Nuclear plants at many times the total cost even though much of the technology is shared but SPTs are much safer and cheaper.

        Probably take less land area as well once you count the exclusion zone around a Nuclear plant. Also if you build the store slightly further away, it would provide great free heating for greenhouses to allow growing tropical fruit etc. in UK.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: reply to myself because I ran out of time for edit

          Or you just lift up a hill

          1. JassMan

            Re: reply to myself because I ran out of time for edit



            I have often thought about this for going off-grid after seeing a small bucket of sand driving a generator with a toothed belt to light a led. You just lift the bucket to the top again for another 4hours of light. I never realised anyone would think big enough to do it on this scale.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: reply to myself because I ran out of time for edit

              I've read of suggestions of weights in a mineshaft but I'm not sure how much energy could be stored that way.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: reply to myself because I ran out of time for edit

                There is a system in the USA where an electric locomotive moves a train of concrete blocks up a mountain, then rolls them back down again with regen braking.

                Not as efficient as batteries, but if you happen to have a mountain with a spare railway line up it.

      2. ilmari

        They have both cold and hot storage tanks, but they're more aimed for evening the difference between night and day cooling and heating demands.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >What do they do with the heat in summer?

      They use to heat the hot water for the house (taps, showers etc.). District heating systems heat both the radiators for heating the house, as well as for the domestic hot water supply.

      Still true, during the summer there is probably an excess of heat that is unused and just vented. Of course better to vent only some of the excess heat in the summer, that all of the excess heat all year round.

      A lot of other posts talk about water cooling the server equipment, which is a more efficient way to capture waste heat. However I seriously doubt that is the case here.

      More like they use a waste heat recovery system that captures the heat from the outgoing air that was used to cool the servers.

      Water based server systems require a lot of plumbing, pumps, heat exchangers and drains in case of leaks. It also requires specialized server hardware, which although it exists, is not standard and not ideal for a data center which has a short life cycle and high turn over of sever hardware for new better models continuously.

      An air based waste heat recovery system is much easier to install and is independent of what server hardware you use.

      The main reason this is not done more wide scale, is it is rare you put a huge data center into an urban area, that is also equipped with district heating. Urban land is generally very expensive and so it is much more cost effective to put your data center in a remote location, far away from urban areas and far away from district heating systems.

    8. Tom 38 Silver badge

      We have district heating at home, hot water at 70°C is pumped to a storage tank in our flat that is kept at 65°C, and pumped around the floor to provide underfloor heating, and mixed with mains to provide a 55°C feed to the kitchen and a 30°C feed to the bathrooms.

      Obviously we don't use as much energy in the summer months, but its not zero. Jan/Feb are the coldest months, we tend to get through twice as many kwh as the average month, but August is pretty similar to April in terms of consumption. We still wash our dishes in hot water and have warm showers. Plus the hot water tank is kept at that 65°C, so even if you don't "use" anything, there is always fresh hot water being added to make up for losses.

      It is a problem in summer having all these pipes full of hot water throughout the building. The communal hallways carry the pipes, and are all internal with no cooling, so you can step out into a furnace.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, it's a first

    This is as far as I know the first time that the inefficiency of the way Microsoft writes code is turned into something positive.

    I'm assuming they'll be running Intel chips as well? Epyc chips may not heat enough..

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Well, it's a first

      Late 90s cyrix processors ;)

      1. tonique

        Re: Well, it's a first

        Found a supply of Pentium 4 Prescotts?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Well, it's a first

          Pentium? 486 surely, given they didn't have a thermal cut out.

          Perhaps we will see Zeon's with modified thermal limiters, to ensure they always run nice and toasty.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Well, it's a first

      I was thinking along similar lines, with this scheme what is the incentive to make the datacenter be more energy efficient and thus produce less heat.

      Also does the need to collect the heat impact the design of the datacenter ie. whilst you still need airflow for cooling, you don't want too much airflow as otherwise, the heat becomes too diluted.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Well, it's a first

        > what is the incentive to make the datacenter be more energy efficient and thus produce less heat.

        Cos heat out = power in and they still have to pay the leccy bill

  3. Jim Birch

    Someone needs to create an electric heater that mines bitcoin.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't that known as "any Windows PC"?


  4. KurtL

    Not a first for Finland

    This is actually not a first for Finland. The LUMI EuroHPC pre-exascale computer is hosted by CSC in a data centre in Kajaani and its waiste heat is also used to heat the city.

    Finland is very well suited for such cooling techniques. Some IT equipment nowadays is designed for nearly 100% hot water cooling. When it is cold, the heat can be used to heat nearby homes, and as Finland has a very moderate climate year round free cooling can be used to remove the remaining heat when it cannot be used for heating.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a first for Finland

      Same here in Sweden. My ISP did this in Stockholm in 2014, also together with Fortum. So a tried and tested method, although on a slightly smaller scale, I guess :-)

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: Not a first for Finland

        Yes, Fortum is one of the biggest Finnish companies and operate in 40 countries, also in the UK.

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Not a first for Finland

      So they've incentivised the local scientific population to keep coming up with complex problems lest the population gets cold?


  5. Dave Null

    JFK, it's like 1990s slashdot in here

    "teh M$ suxxors" etc

    MS build the best and most efficient DCs in the world with an efficiency and bang per buck that no-one else bar possibly AWS can touch.

    They're also carbon negative.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: JFK, it's like 1990s slashdot in here

      That would be unusual, because "efficient" and "Microsoft" do otherwise rarely feature in the same sentence without a "not" somewhere in between.

      Do you have any links to a DC comparison? Would be interesting to have independent facts.

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