back to article Plans for Dutch datacenter to warm thousands of homes

Dutch datacenter firm Bytesnet is using expertise from computer maker Boston Ltd to recycle heat from its facility in the Groningen district of the Netherlands that could be used to heat thousands of homes. The two companies said they are working together to provide long-term reliable, affordable, and sustainable heat …

  1. My-Handle Silver badge

    Hell, I've been doing this for the last few weeks.

    The heating oil tank for my house ran out, and I'm too stubborn to buy more at over double it's usual price (thanks, Putin). My HP ProLiant DL385 G7 has been keeping my office nice and warm instead, once I turn on Folding@Home. Might as well put that electricity to good use if I'm heating my home with it anyway.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      In the 80's I visited Industrial Light & Magic to help setup a data collection system for them (it was a very fun and educational visit) and the policy there kept the offices nice and warm. Everyone was forbidden to turn off their PCs when they went home because all the special effects processing was running in the background of every system. You could walk into a lovely warm office every morning.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @My-Handle

      Why are you proud of spending more heating your house with electricity than with oil (since you cite price as the primary driver)?

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        The trade-off is more like heating one room with electricity, some of which I would be using anyway, rather than heating a whole house with oil that I currently cannot afford.

        The parallel that I was drawing with the article is that I am making use of heat that otherwise would have been a waste product. Better that the power helps something like Folding@Home before heating my office, rather than it just being dumped with a fan heater, wouldn't you agree?

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        This is something that the proponents of all electric-heating systems seem to ignore. Electricity is so much more expensive than any other method of heating, that it rarely makes financial sense. Heating electrically can only really be justified on environmental grounds, and that depends hugely on the mix of generation in the grid.

        Historically, I believe the price per kWh of electricity has been around 4 times that of natural gas (in the UK) and around 3 times the price of kerosene. It varies quite a bit, but those seem to be good rules of thumb.

        The table here is interesting reading. Ignore the actual prices as the data is from December 2021, but the general ratio between the sources seems to stay relatively steady over time. Anyway, according to that table, in December typical standard rate electricity was 23.65p/kWh, gas was 5.47p/kWh (delivered) (that's 4.3:1) and kerosene 6.69p/kWh (3.5:1).

        Put it this way, in order for a heat pump to be cost effective against gas, it would need to be able to recover at least 4kWh of heat for every 1kWh of electricity used to run it.

        Guess what? Despite what the brochure might say, it seems that air-source heat pumps struggle to be 4:1 efficient for more than a couple of months during the summer in the UK, and that over the year they could be as low as 2:1 (typically, I can't now find the report I read which put this into real numbers). I think we've had this argument previously. Space heating isn't usually the issue, it's getting your hot water to 55C or 60C that is the problem - heat pumps are less efficient the more they have to raise temperature and it's common in the winter for hot water to be provided by immersion heaters.

        This means that (very roughly speaking and all other things being equal), swapping your heating from gas (or LPG) to heat-pump electricity will end up doubling your energy bills (four times the cost per kWh but 2:1 as efficient), and this is on top of the much higher installation costs. Oh, and now that the RHI scheme is finished, you don't get any government help either.

        Regarding the original point (which may well have been tongue-in-cheek) while it wouldn't be worthwhile firing up F@H just to heat the house, if the computer is running anyway then there's no disadvantage. My NAS, printer, server Pis, modem and network switch are in a cupboard, and we have a central fan system which extracts warm, stale air from the kitchen, bathroom and this cupboard and uses a heat exchanger to warm fresh air coming into the building which is then piped to the lounge, bedrooms etc. For the few tens of Watts the fans take when running at "background" level, we recover most of the heat and distribute it around the house. Seems to work reasonably well :-)

        M.

    3. Claverhouse Silver badge

      I really don't think president Putin caused the energy crisis; nor that he is reluctant to sell Russia's oil.

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        If we're talking about absolute, direct cause and effect then you are right. Putin did not raise the price of oil in the UK.

        It's what we call a knock-on effect. Sudden, strict sanctions on a major producer of natural resources because they invaded a neighbouring country can have negative consequences on global supply chains.

      2. sreynolds Silver badge

        Yeah nothing like warming the hands over the graphics card pit.

        Does anyone know how many 30X0 cards you need to roast a marshmallow?

  2. spold Silver badge

    >>>

    heated water from the datacenter can be used to boost waste water processing, after which some of the treated water gets fed back to the datacenter for cooling purposes.

    <<<

    ...so when the treatment part breaks down I have sewage in my servers.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      so when the treatment part breaks down I have sewage in my servers.

      Given what I sometimes encounter on the internet, that might be an improvement for some servers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not sure if your comment was a joke, but the water never goes near the servers. Clean water in your servers would be just as disastrous as sewage water- just less smelly.

  3. Red Ted
    Happy

    Using waste heat

    The British Sugar plant at Wissington in Norfolk uses its waste heat to warm green houses.

    Originally they grew tomatoes, but these days apparently they grow cannabis!

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Using waste heat

      About the waste water heat at Olkiluoto in Finland.

      "The waste heat, an output common to all thermal power plants, which heats the cooling water (at 13 °C) is utilized for small-scale agriculture before being pumped back to the sea. The power plant hosts the northernmost vineyard in the world, a 0.1 ha experimental plot that yields 850 kg Zilga grapes annually.[57] Another use is a pond for growing crabs, whitefish and sturgeon for caviar.[58]".

    2. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

      Re: Using waste heat

      Some years ago I installed a network for a startup company that was using waste heat from the cooling system of a power plant to run heated pools for aquaculture. The plant fed the Lynemouth aluminium smelter, which was mothballed about a year later so I guess that project was dead in the water...

  4. spold Silver badge

    I guess it only works in cold weather

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      you can use hot water to produce chilled water using an Absorption Chiller. However the temperature you would need is probably a LOT higher than that from the hot side of a cooling system for electronics. Still, there may be a way to recover the heat from cooling the electronics within the process.

      Similarly, recovered heat from a data center cooling system could (in theory) at least reduce the electrical load needed to create chilled water in the summer by pre-heating or otherwise injecting recovered energy into the system.

      Alternately, it may also be possible to use Peltier devices to generate chilled water from hot water, though I am not sure if there are any existing devices that have that kind of scale. Does NOT mean they cannot INVENT one!

      So "solutions exist" but may require some cleverness and/or "scaling up".

      The cogeneration system I worked with back in the 80's used engine jacket water and exhaust gas heat recovery to power an absorption chiller, pre-heat hot water (for a hotel), while generating electricity using a diesel generator running on natural gas. Excess electricity went on the grid, and it ran at full power all of the time.

  5. Commswonk

    I cannot resist...

    From the article: ...a datacenter in Hokkaido in Japan is using snow to cool its IT infrastructure then taking the resultant meltwater, now heated to 33°C (91.4°F), and using it to cultivate eels.

    Time to update a certain phrasebook:

    My data centre is full of eels.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: I cannot resist...

      Unagi. YUM! (it's my favorite Japanese food)

  6. Alistair
    Windows

    Hokkaido

    There's something fishy about that datacentre, the details have slipped through my fingers.......

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Hokkaido

      Yes but is it scalable?

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Hokkaido

        Yes but is it scalable?

        No, eels don't have scales ;)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd like more details!

    I've got questions.

    Is it used only for heating? In that csse, where does the heat go in summer?

    If it's used also for tap hot water, can it be kept hot enough to be hygienic? Law here says it must be at least 55°C at all times to kill germs.

    And is there enough of it, to avoid getting cold showers at peak time in the morning?

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I'd like more details!

      Yes for heating only.

      Is there enough I think would depend on the country and yes during the summer less heating or none is needed.

    2. Dimmer
      Flame

      Re: I'd like more details!

      Our hot Isle is producing 95f deg air. This is dumped directly into the building halls during the winter months and vented outside during the summer.

      It is a constant fight to get the customers to understand the concept of hot / cold isle. When you have a device blowing into the cold isle, it usually stays in the rack and is pulled into a server. I have seen temps as high as 130f.

      No matter what you do, the women will have a heater under the desk and junk piled around and on top of the workstation preventing it from breathing.

      1. ian 22

        Re: I'd like more details!

        Ah, I understand now. I thought you were referring to some tropical island. You meant aisle.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's rocket science

    Amazing it wasn't possible 20 years ago. /S

  9. sreynolds Silver badge

    I thought that there was plenty of waste heat on the East coast of Japan

    I think that fukushima is still producing a lot of waste heat. Why not harness that?

  10. Enric Martinez

    We have been doing just that for 8 years; using the heat produced by the (late) Dutch national supercomputer Cartesius to warm the premises of the CWI during the winter with the warmed-up cooling water.

    No idea if we are going to do the same with the new one, Snellius, as it's way cooler than it's predecessor.

    Given the price of gas, we could as well just switch it on again only for the heating, LOL.

    1. PRR
      Flame

      > ...residual heat that is released from the servers ... ... will provide enough energy to heat over 10,000 homes...

      Is that what OVHCloud's SBG2 Strasbourg was doing last year? Open-air fire to free-heat the neighborhood on a cold March day?

      OVH data centre destroyed by fire in Strasbourg

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