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New Data Center Will Heat Homes In London 204

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-click-heating dept.
1sockchuck writes "The heat generated by thousands of servers at the new Telehouse West data center in London will soon be used to heat nearby houses and businesses. The Greater London Authority has approved a plan in which waste heat from the colocation facility will be used in a district heat network for the local Docklands community. The project is expected to produce up to nine megawatts of power for the local community."
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New Data Center Will Heat Homes In London

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  • The Final Sentence of TFA: "The GLA (Greater London Authority) said that the agreed solution represents the best possible outcome within the specific constraints of the scheme and accords with the objectives of London Plan policy 4A.6."

    You know, lavishing praise on a project like that is going to make all the other projects jealous.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:04AM (#27594179)

    It'll work all year round! You'll never feel cold in July ever again, and you may not even need to use your oven to make a roast.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CityZen (464761)

      Seriously, though, what will they do with the excess heat in summer time?

      • by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@pa l e gray.net> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:55AM (#27594437) Homepage Journal
        We're going to see a big rise in nerdy homeowners creating homebrew stirling engines [wikipedia.org] to convert the heat back into power, so as to power their desk fans ;).
      • Vent it outside? You know, like is done with every other air conditioning system in the world.

      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:23AM (#27594555) Homepage Journal

        Seriously, though, what will they do with the excess heat in summer time?

        This is the UK we are talking about. They don't really have a summer.

        • Humdity (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TapeCutter (624760) * on Thursday April 16, 2009 @04:05AM (#27595075) Journal
          I'm an Aussie living in Melbourne so I get the joke. Occasionaly we get a news report of a London heat wave with a few days around 30degC, old people are dropping dead and young people are splashing around half naked in city fountains. It seem bizzare since a hot day here is 10-15degC hotter and we don't have dramas with old people until it gets around 40 or above.

          A few years back I went on my first trip to the UK (at the end of July) we had a 3 day stop over in Hong Kong on the way. Hong Kong was as unbearable as Darwin is in the wet season, 30-35 deg, no breeze and near 100% humidity. As we were approaching London the pilot announced the temprature in London had just broken it's record maximum temp ( 32degC IIRC ). The wife and I snickered at each other...the english have no idea what hot is... We stopped snickering as soon we walked out of the airport and hit a wall of warm humid air that was exactly like Hong Kong or Darwin, the only weather difference between the three places was the pollution levels.

          Of course the reason for the discomfort [ec.gc.ca] is high humidity from the massive ocean currents that bring warm water from the Gulf of Mexico.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by teh kurisu (701097)

            London homes are also far less likely to be equipped with air conditioning than homes in Hong Kong or Australia, which is another reason for the discomfort.

            • ...and the difference in death tolls. The warm weather followed us to N scotland. The pubs are built of stone with meter thick walls and low heavy ceilings, they were like an oven when full of people.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Not only lack of air conditioning but very different construction materials in the much older cities.

              I live in the old town of Edinburgh myself, and the flat we're in retains heat at an amazing level. I'm not savvy on the exact materials used, but the stone is thick/dense enough to block out mobile phone signals the instant you step over the stairwell threshold. When its hot (25+ in Scotland :P) for more than a few days, the flat ends up being considerably hotter than the outside :/ If its left empty for a

            • I visited London in 1996 during what was apparently a fairly punishing summer. I'm from Louisiana and would normally say that I know something about heat. It was hot, every bit as hot as anything I've experienced in the southern US, but we've already established that. The story here has to do with the girl I was dating at the time. Before she'd blossomed with a more than impressive bust size, she'd held ambitions of being a professional dancer (like, real ambitions, winning at regional level competition

          • by Muad'Dave (255648)

            ...30-35 deg, no breeze and near 100% humidity

            Welcome to Richmond, Virginia!

            We have an average of 41 days over 90F/32C a year, and our record highs exceed 90F/32C from March to October. Humidity is always high - it's not unusual to have temps and humidity both in the mid- to high 90's.

            Uncomfortable!!!

            • Re: Your sig. The opposite is true too. I know from personal experience how stupid you can sound mispronouncing the Hell out a word whose exact definition you're quite clear on.

          • by qoncept (599709)
            I was deployed to UAE for 4 months. When we got there in September it was 45c+ every day with humidity in the 90s. THAT was hot. By the time it started raining in January, I was wearing a sweater out when it was 25c.
        • Re:The best part? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by xaxa (988988) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @05:46AM (#27595379)

          Yesterday's high was 22C. Predicted high for today is only 16C.

          I'm happy with a summer that means I can sit around outside without feeling uncomfortable, do some moderate exercise (eg play a sport) outside and not die, and have a home I can cool to a comfortable temperature for 95%+ of the time just by opening the windows.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by glgraca (105308)

          Yes they do!

          Last year it fell on a thursday!

      • Problem solved.

        Or maybe they could do what they do just now; pump it directly into the atmosphere.

         

      • by clickety6 (141178)

        People still want hot water...

        Besides, this is British summer we're talking about here so what does 1 week matter compared to the 51 cold and wet weeks in a year? ;-)

      • by jank1887 (815982)
        (a) use it to offset some portion of domestic hot water generation. Cooking, cleaning, showers, etc. (b) didn't RTFA, so is it steam distribution? If so, then you can drive an adsorption chiller off of it. If it's not steam, I don't recall how hot the water has to be to make this work. Depends if it's an ammonia system. (common technology)
    • by XDirtypunkX (1290358) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:53AM (#27594435)

      They have summer in London now?

    • Re:The best part? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by shri (17709) <(shriramc) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:59AM (#27594683) Homepage
      What happens if the next generation of servers run 10 Degrees cooler?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Trahloc (842734)
        If servers become X% more efficient, why the simple solution is add X% more servers.
        • by entgod (998805)
          Because they might not need them or have room for them? You don't go off buying 10% more milk when it's 10% cheaper, you save money.

          I guess the homes that would be heated will already have some sort of heating, maybe they will use that to compliment getting less data center heat.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Waffle Iron (339739)

      It'll work all year round! You'll never feel cold in July ever again, and you may not even need to use your oven to make a roast.

      Well, this is from the country that invented the "AGA", which is some kind of hybrid kitchen range/oven/furnace that burns fuel 24x7x365, and which has no temperature adjustment. I guess their theory is that they live in a chilly climate.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, it was actuelly a Swede who invented the AGA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGA_cooker

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by master811 (874700)

        No they don't all burn fuel 24x7, the electric ones can use off-peak electricity (which is generally considerably cheaper) and so store the heat for use during the day (and only draw extra if they need to).

        The heat given off by the AGA also saves the kitchen from needing separate heating (and more so depending on the size of the house).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by emm-tee (23371)

        Well, this is from the country that invented the "AGA" ...

        The AGA was invented by a Swede, Dr. Gustaf Dalén. AGA is an abbreviation of Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator.

        Source. [wikipedia.org]

  • Brrr (Score:5, Funny)

    by PingPongBoy (303994) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:07AM (#27594193)

    Cold here. Going to turn up the thermostat with some chess online.

    • by jank1887 (815982)
      better step up your game so you can run on Expert difficulty to get through the really cold days.
  • Great idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by notarockstar1979 (1521239) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:15AM (#27594243) Journal
    It's how we used to heat the offices neighboring our server room (and I'm sure many many people did it before I did). Glad to see them using it on a larger scale to save a bit of dosh.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nutria (679911)

      Back when a single mainframe + disk farm really did take up an entire large data center, the company I work for (up north of N.Y.C.) vented in outside winter air to save on cooling costs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BrokenHalo (565198)
        Back in the days when I worked on a Burroughs B3700, no amount of venting to the outside world worked. If the air-conditioning failed, we had a bit over 40 minutes to shut everything down before the temperature in the machine-room hit 50 dec. C and the core started to fry. Not much fun to work in. Ah, them were the days... ;-)
    • Anecdote (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:15AM (#27594535)

      Sometime ago, I had a conversation with someone who was complaining how inefficient his computer was; that 90% of the energy was turned into heat. My reply: "But doesn't that make it a very efficient heater?"

    • It's how I heat my bedroom.
  • Damn. (Score:4, Funny)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@pa l e gray.net> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:23AM (#27594273) Homepage Journal
    That's a hot idea. Hope the discussion surrounding its merits doesn't get too heated, as alternative energy sources are really starting to heat up.
  • by oldhack (1037484)
    Maybe folks over there should donate all their old P4 machines to them. The P there stands for "furnace."
  • by ben2umbc (1090351) * on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:32AM (#27594315)
    So what happens to these people's heat source if the data center is shut down or becomes obsolete in the future? I would expect the homes to be around much longer than a data center might.
    • by emandres (857332) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:47AM (#27594397)
      Well, obviously this isn't going to be the primary source of heat for most of the homes involved. I would imagine that all of the homes that will be affected already have some sort of heating (e.g. furnace, base board heaters, etc). These people won't be completely freed from a monthly gas/electric heating bill, but I would imagine it will save them a pretty penny in the colder months. Really, this makes a whole lot of sense. I've had computers confined in a cabinet under a desk that ran so hot that the BIOS would shut down the computer if you didn't leave the cabinet door cracked. Granted, that was back in the P4 days (although I imagine the newer multi-core CPU's crank out their fair share of extra heating). That, and my laptop is currently acting as a rather nice heater for my lap.
      • by crafty.munchkin (1220528) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:14AM (#27594525)

        That, and my laptop is currently acting as a rather nice heater for my lap.

        I hope you don't wind up with a cyst developing in your testicle like I did... and that was only 2 hrs a day on the train using a laptop for 3 months. Admittedly this laptop was a piece of shit that should never have been released with the name laptop, and it got so hot i often would have to shut the bastard down half way through the train ride home as it was going to burn my legs. HTH, HAND.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          LOL what the fuck did you expect? Cooking your balls every day, they hang outside for a reason.

  • by clinko (232501) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:50AM (#27594411) Homepage Journal

    I'm pretty sure the laptop i'm using right now could do a better job. Plus, I don't have to worry about my children's future.

  • by waveformwafflehouse (1221950) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:51AM (#27594423) Homepage
    I smell a new routing protocol that redirects traffic to the cold parts of the world
  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:51AM (#27594425)
    if you stop reading slashdot your grandmother freezes to death?
  • by Microship (241842) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:56AM (#27594445) Homepage Journal

    Ages ago (60s or early 70s), a large aluminum company built a new HQ building (in Richmond, IIRC). They ran the numbers on computer-cooling vs building-heating, and made the computers an integral part of the equation (downscaling the heating plant accordingly). You see where this is going...

    As the move approached, the DP guys saw an opportunity, and canceled their PO to Armonk... opting instead for an Amdahl, I believe. Winter came, and people started wearing coats at their desks. My friend who worked there reported that they were hastily building a kluge auxiliary heating plant with insulated ducts running across a parking lot.

    Of course, the Docklands project doesn't sound like it's making any assumptions about the amount of waste heat, just doing something useful with it. But I hadn't thought of that paleo-computing tale in decades and had to pass it along.

    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @04:18AM (#27595121) Homepage
      That would be interesting, if you had bothered to say what DP, Armonk, or Amdahl is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Simon Brooke (45012)

        That would be interesting, if you had bothered to say what DP, Armonk, or Amdahl is.

        This site is for nerds. Nerds know these things, and don't have to be told. Armonk is where IBM used to build mainframes. Amdahl was a guy who designed mainframes for IBM, and who later went on to found a company of the same name which made mainframes which were compatible with IBM's mainframes.

        IBM is a computer company.

        Mainframes are a class of large computer, now rare.

        Computers are programmable machines for processing data.

        DP is an acronym for 'Data Processing'

        Is there anything else you'd like to know?

        • by mog007 (677810)

          What is the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything?

        • Is there anything else you'd like to know?

          You forgot to elaborate on that "data" thing. Wassat?

        • DP is an acronym for 'Data Processing'

          ... Double Penetration?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by smoker2 (750216)

          DP is an acronym for 'Data Processing'

          No it isn't, it is just the initials. An acronym is a word made up of initials, like NASA. And you didn't say what OP meant.

          BTW, there is a difference between Nerd and Wanker. You appear to fall into the latter category.

    • by xaxa (988988)

      My university had a similar problem. When the computing building was refurbished, air conditioning was installed in all the labs, but heating wasn't. It was assumed the computers would keep the rooms warm enough. That was fine, until a few years ago when computers started to do things like go on standby automatically, reduce their clock speed when unused etc. Changing all the CRT screens to LCDs had a big impact too. The rooms are now cold in winter. (And presumably, the aircon bill a lot lower.)

  • But... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xMattyDx (1472457)
    I thought only in Soviet Russia that data center warms you?
  • The next PC I make I am going to put in the basement and have a peltier heat exchanger to use the waste heat from the peltier and the PC to pre-heat the water for my hot water heater.

    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Get a Core i7. TDP: 130 watts.

      But you might have problems getting all those hyperthreaded cores utilised. In its place I recommend the old Athlon X2 6000+, with a TDP of 125 watts; easy to peg both cores and get a space-heater. I used to have one, my room never got cold back then.
  • Heat!=power (Score:4, Informative)

    by caffeineboy (44704) <{ude.uso} {ta} {22.eromdiks}> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:53AM (#27594657)

    As with anything written by a reporter, engineering details are all f'ed up.

    "The project is expected to produce up to nine megawatts of power for the local community."

    No, the project will probably pipe 9MW of heat from the server farm over to the housing complex. Hopefully they can use 9MW of heat continuously, summer and winter.

    âoeThe energy savings will equate to boiling 3,000 kettles continuously,â

    Um - that's a really funny way of thinking about saving energy. 9Mw/3000= 3kw/kettle. That's a hell of a kettle.

    For anyone who thinks that running a computer in their house to heat it is clever, you would do a lot better (price AND CO2 wise) just running a furnace or your heat pump. Resistance heating is the WORST way to heat a house.

    If you're going to be producing the heat anyway and can find a use for it like this, please do! Don't think that because you CAN use a computer for a heater means that it makes sense.

    • by belg4mit (152620)

      >Hopefully they can use 9MW of heat continuously, summer and winter.
      You can actually use wasted heat to produce chilled water.
      It's quite common in co-generation.

      • If this is heat rejected from a server farm, it'll be too low grade to do much with it other than heating. You might be able to heat the premise hot water a tiny bit...

        Absorption chillers, the common way to do waste heat to cooling, want medium grade waste heat a lot hotter than what's coming from a server farm and steam generation is totally out of the question.

        • by belg4mit (152620)

          I never said it'd be efficient; thermodynamically, or perhaps even "economically.*"
          But what else are they going to with 9MW of warm wind in the summer?
          I suppose they could drying something (laundry, fruit, paper)

          * For some variant of the modern corruption of oikonomos

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by im_thatoneguy (819432)

      True. But the only alternative to computer heat in my apartment is in-wall heater.

      Which means both are resistance heaters but one crunches numbers.

    • A hell of a kettle (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:44AM (#27595011)

      Modern kettles do consume 3kW [edoxa.co.uk], they have these huge, flat elements that boil very fast.

      It's actually more efficient, as less heat will be lost from the body of the kettle during the boil cycle, because it has less time.

      • by eth1 (94901)

        Also, 2.5-3.2kW is about what the largest element of most electric ranges consume at full power. Sounds reasonable to me.

    • by Timmmm (636430)

      "No, the project will probably pipe 9MW of heat from the server farm over to the housing complex."

      No you're wrong. Heat is the energy transfered (measured in Joules). The 9MW is the heat transfer *rate* and it is indeed a power quantity.

      Ask Wikipedia if you don't believe me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat#Notation [wikipedia.org]

    • âoeThe energy savings will equate to boiling 3,000 kettles continuously,â

      Um - that's a really funny way of thinking about saving energy. 9Mw/3000= 3kw/kettle. That's a hell of a kettle.

      3Kw is the default for electric kettles in the UK. We drink a lot of tea, you know.

  • by hankwang (413283) * on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:25AM (#27594747) Homepage

    I suppose that they did investigate the matter, but I wonder how this works. It's clear that there are a lot of watts being dissipated in the datacenter, but the problem is that they are dissipated against room temperature air. In order to heat houses with that, you have to use a heat pump which converts a heat flow at room temperature into a 65 C water that can easily be transported over large distances.

    Normally, an airconditioning works as a heat pump that absorbs the heat by evaporating refrigerant slightly below room temperature (say 10 C), then compressing it so that it can condense and release the heat in an outdoor radiator at 40 C (ambient temperature up to 35 C). An ideal heat engine would be able to do this with an efficiency of 313 K/(40 C-10 C) = 10, which means that in order to displace 10 W of heat, you need to put in 1 W of mechanical work. I believe that a practical air-conditioning heat pump has an efficiency of 4 or so. Now in order to release the heat against 65 C (condensor temperature 75 C) instead of 35 C, the efficiency would halve. The work that you have to put into this heat engine comes from a power plant which itself has only 35% efficiency. So the balance would be:

    Standard datacenter:
    Server heat production: P
    A/C electricity consumption: 0.25*P
    Heat from burning fuel in power plant: 3.75*P

    Datacenter with residential heating:
    Server heat production: P
    Heat pump electricity consumption: 0.6*P
    Heat output to homes: 1.6*P
    (gain: 1.6*P) Heat in power plant: 4.8*P (extra cost: 1.05*P)

    Net gain: 0.55*P. For that you have to do all the infrastructure of big insulated hot-water pipes to residential areas and special heat pumps. It's not clear to me that this will pay off (in money and in environmental cost).

  • by Rovaani (20023) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @02:27AM (#27594757)
    Cogeneration [wikipedia.org] (or combined heat and power) can increase the efficiency of fossil fuel plants by a factor of 2 (from 50% to 93% efficiency mention in this Times article [timesonline.co.uk]). The downside is that the the piping infrastructure investment needed is huge. Maybe this data center powered heating scheme can give it a leg up.
  • KWK (Score:3, Informative)

    by polar red (215081) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:51AM (#27595035)

    this is called 'Kraft-Wärme-Kopplung' in German and warmte-kracht-koppeling in dutch. see also Combined Heat and Power or CHP.

  • I wonder how they do it technically (yea, i was too busy to actually RTFA), but other than that i wonder why no one has attempted this any sooner!

    And i think the scales on the summary are "a little" bit off

  • They ought to have a heat pipe from the House of Commons -- hot air is just about the only useful thing that is produced there.
  • This story amuses me because I live in Aalborg, and we have district heating, but this morning there is a break in the system so our entire complex is without hot water. Luckily it is coming up to summer so heating is not necessary.
  • by Sol-Invictus (1221002) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:12AM (#27595917)
    A bit off-topic, but I was amused to find out that here in the UK so many people turn their kettles on at 7:30pm for a cup of tea that sometimes they have to bring online a link from the French power grid to supply the extra power; apparently there is a guy who has to keep watch every day at 7:30 and if the power generation levels become serious enough he brings the French link online.
  • If I were a writer I would try to write a SCi-Fi novel about this type of thinking taken to the Nth degree. Alas I am not a writer so the world is spared.

    But I think this type of thinking is great. I wish my house recaptured dryer heat (and humidity) in the winter. And that I could pump refrigerator heat directly outside during the summer.

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