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05.04.2012

Innovation Evolved: heat recycling

What is innovation? Dictionaries define it as the introduction of something new or different to traditionally accepted practices, but with so many organisations around the world trying to make their business more environmentally sustainable, some of the modern ideas that we have seen introduced over time have become somewhat commonplace.

Go back to the beginning of the data centre, or computer rooms as they were more commonly referred to. Because of the low power densities, most of the rooms were laid out in rows with racks facing front to back. With time came ever-increasing loads and it was only until the orientation of racks were changed that the world recognized that creating hot and cold aisles would allow them to reduce the mixing of cold air delivery and the hot air return to the air conditioning system, thus increasing efficiencies; an innovation of its time.

Fast forward to the present day and hot and cold aisle containment is more focused and more concentrated. With higher rack densities it is now considered crucial that in order to provide the best efficiencies, it is no longer enough just to cool the room. Aisle containment provides that degree of separation to minimise the cold air supply and hot air return from mixing. Whether it’s by using conventional perimeter located CRAC units or in-row cooling, aisle containment delivers better efficiencies for the cooling system, saving energy and operation costs.

Data Centre Ideas – Heat Recycling

In previous articles we’ve discussed recent innovations such as Google’s Hamina data centre whereby seawater is used for cooling, but then we’ve seen similar things done before and will no doubt see plenty comparable occurrences come round the corner. It’s no secret that necessity breeds innovation and in order to handle the magnitude of today’s data and processing needs, better power and cooling efficiencies only lend to this way of thinking. The question is; when is a modern idea no longer innovative?

In some instances, the answer lies with a handful of businesses around the globe who have taken the initiative to explore beyond the perimeters of current innovations by recycling the waste heat produced by their data centres, including Telewest’s £80m state-of-the-art flagship facility, Telehouse West. Located in the London Docklands, the nine-floor, 160,000 square foot edifice is expected to recover the waste heat generated to provide the local Docklands community up to nine megawatts of power, permitting the facility to reduce its carbon footprint by 1,110 tons.

To put this into perspective, that’s the equivalent of 3,000 kettles being boiled, continuously.

Data Centre Heat Recycling

Elsewhere, IBM’s data centre for Swiss IT Company, GIB-Services, is being used to heat a nearby swimming pool in Uitikon, whereby the waste heat generated is transferred through heat exchangers to warm water before being pumped into the pool.

2,500 kilometres north-west of that, situated under Uspenski Cathedral, a popular tourist attraction in Helsinki, sits a data centre that was once used as a bomb shelter in World War II. Large pipes some 75 metres below the server room allows water to circulate through the sea, thus chilling the water before advancing into the server room. Sound familiar? The real cornerstone of this facility isn’t in how it’s cooled, however, but how it uses waste heat to warm up water pipes which are channelled through the city’s district heating and cooling system, generating enough energy to heat 500 nearby homes.

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