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UK university enhances campus using data centre waste heat

Written by Tue 9 Jul 2024

Image Credit: Queen Mary University of London, photo by Norah Alghafis

The Queen Mary University of London has announced plans to repurpose waste heat from its data centre to provide hot water and heating for the campus.

This project forms part of the refurbishment for the Joseph Priestley Building, which houses the university’s Tier 2 computing facility, a vital resource for particle physics research at CERN.

The Priestley building refurbishment project will introduce a heat recovery system to capture waste heat from the data centre. This system will convert the waste heat into hot water reaching temperatures up to 75°C. This high-grade hot water can directly integrate into existing plumbing and heating systems, reducing reliance on conventional gas boilers and fossil fuels.

The project at Queen Mary University aims to contribute to lowering the university’s Scope 1 carbon emissions by capturing waste heat and reducing its reliance on gas. 

The Head of Particle Physics Research Centre, Professor Jonathan Hays, said this project goes beyond ‘simply improving our data centre’s efficiency or replacing outdated equipment’.

“We are actively reducing our environmental footprint. By capturing waste heat, we can significantly decrease our dependence on gas boilers, resulting in measurable cuts to CO2 emissions,” said Hays.

Setting an Example for Sustainability

Financially, the project is projected to generate a return on investment within seven years by reducing gas consumption and enhancing energy efficiency. 

The University said it intends to strive to establish itself as a leader in sustainable practices, with the aim of this model serving as an example for other organisations looking to reduce their environmental impact through innovative data centre design.

“By harnessing waste heat and minimising our carbon footprint, we are setting an example for others to follow. We believe this approach can be a cornerstone for sustainable data centre operations in the future,” said Colin Bailey, President and Principal at Queen Mary University of London.

The data centre refurbishment started on 1 July with a three-month offline period. Preliminary work began outside the centre in April.

Computing tasks will shift seamlessly to partner institutions in the Grid PP network, minimising disruption to research. The Priestley building’s heat recovery system aims to be fully operational by October 2024 for the upcoming heating season.

Heat reuse is gaining traction in the UK. In February, London-based post-production company Dirty Looks achieved a UK-first by rendering a high-quality film using Deep Green’s heat reuse data centre.

In January, Octopus Energy invested £200 million ($254 million) in data centre heat recycling company, Deep Green, to expand their data centre heat reuse technology in the UK.

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Written by Tue 9 Jul 2024

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