Waste heat recovery from data centres

Overview of the status and impact of the innovation



One of the most rapidly growing sources of waste heat are data centres, whose use has increased by more than 250% over the last five years (IEA, 2022c). In Germany, for example, data centres now convert more than 13 TWh of electricity per year into heat, typically at temperatures of 25-40°C, most of which is wasted (Goethe Institut, 2020). This heat can be recovered and used as a valuable resource, especially in DHC networks. In addition, there are opportunities to store the larger amounts of waste heat that data centres produce in summer to provide heating in winter (Figure 6.12).

FIGURE 6.12 Layout of a waste heat recovery system



Recovery and use of the waste heat from data centres offer large economic and environmental gains. They reduce the data centres’ electricity demand and enable valuable use of heat that would otherwise have been lost for heating homes and other buildings through district heating networks.

BOX 6.18a Waste heat recovery from the Facebook data centre in Denmark

Facebook’s data centre in Odense was located and designed to recover and donate up to 100 000 MWh of waste energy each year. It sends hot water to the city’s district heating system, operated by Fjernvarme Fyn, where the water is mainly used for heating with radiators. The data centre is also powered with 100% renewable energy, mainly from a local wind project (Copenhagen Centre of Energy Efficiency, 2023).

BOX 6.18b Waste heat recovery from a data centre in Tibet, China

In Lhasa, Tibet, a cooling system to utilise the waste heat from a data centre has been implemented to increase the data centre’s energy efficiency. To achieve the recycling and reuse of clean energy, the waste heat is recycled to heat the aquaculture and agricultural facilities (Xiong, 2021).

Power to heat and cooling innovations

Innovations (35)