Germany wants to force its power-hungry data centers to harness excess heat for warming residential homes — an effort which the industry warns is likely to fall flat.
The country has become one of the largest global hubs for data centers thanks to its clear data protection and security laws. Politicians are now trying to re-purpose some of their controversial excess heat to improve efficiency in light of the energy crisis.
While in theory an innovative way to reduce the industry’s immense carbon footprint, experts have pointed to a flaw in the government’s proposal expected to be passed this month: potential recipients of waste heat are not being compelled to take it.
The warm air expelled by server farms isn’t nearly as hot as that required by most district heating networks. That means any utility they partner with must invest in heat pumps to bring the air to usable levels, further ramping up costs and power usage.
“Data center operators are mostly ready and willing to give away their waste heat,” according to Ralph Hintemann, senior researcher at the data center lobby group Borderstep. “The challenge here is finding someone who can use that heat economically.”