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The Stack Archive

Seattle data centre will repurpose waste infrastructure heat

Wed 22 Oct 2014

A new heat-efficient data centre has been proposed in Seattle, Washington, close by the Amazon Rufus 2.0 campus. Graphite Design Group and Clise Properties are proposing the 12-storey edifice, which has a proposed completion date of Q1 2017, and an environmentally amenable solution to the ever-present issue of the heat generated by data centres.

The project joins a growing trend to turn the ‘cooling issue’ on its head by repurposing the vast amounts of heat that will be generated by rack-space in the eight functional floors above the generator and UPS levels. The heated air will be piped through to the heating infrastructure of adjacent office buildings. Amazon is planning a similar scheme for ‘waste’ heat from its own data centres for the local Westin building. The proposed structure will be built on what is currently car-lot space in Seattle’s Denny Triangle neighbourhood.

Average data centre aisle temperatures range between 80-115 degrees Fahrenheit, inadequate for energy recovery but potentially very economical if the hot air can be repurposed into office or domestic heating.

It is an unfortunate collateral effect of data sovereignty that so many data centres end up being constructed in countries or regions where the climate exacerbates the cooling issue. If security, sovereignty and latency were less binding issues, some of the obvious colder locations on the planet, currently under-used for this purpose, could obviate the issue of waste heat for a great deal of the year.

data-centres-round-the-world

In 2011 Microsoft proposed an interesting but eccentric decentralised solution – a mesh-style network of data centre modules situated in domestic environments and providing heat in return for accommodation (with power usage costs a factor to be determined). The company’s report [PDF] noted at the time that in 2006 ‘the IT industry used 61 Billion kWh electricity (or 3% of total energy consumption in the U.S.)’.

In Stockholm business and government alike are looking at schemes to monetise excess data centre heat. That possibility aside, Swedish company Bahnhof is seeking to build a data centre in downtown Stockholm which will provide its excess heat for the warming of homes.

The new Seattle centre is reported as already attracting interest from future residents, and will occupy a corner of Sixth Avenue and Bell Street at 2229 6th Avenue.

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