Waste Heat From Disney Data Centre Warms District

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Disney has provided a peak “behind the magic”, at least in how its data centres will turn heat into energy

Disneyland Paris is partnering with French energy provider Dalkia to showcase a green way to turn waste heat from its data centres into heating and hot water at a business park.

Dalkia revealed that it will soon open its first district heating network in the Val d’Europe business park in Marne-la-Vallée near Paris. A BBC video of the building of the greenfield business park, which is mostly reportedly owned by Eurodisney, the operator of Disneyland Paris, can be found here.

This district-wide heating network will be fuelled by energy recovered from a 8,000 square metre data centre on the site.

Heat Exchanger

The way it works is that the waste heat produced by the data centre’s air conditioning systems, will be collected and recovered, and then transmitted to the heating network at the Val d’Europe business park via a heat exchanger.

It said this district-wide heating network will eventually supply green energy to buildings with a surface area of 600,000 square metres (6,458,350 sq. ft.).

“By utilising in this way energy that is usually not recovered by data centres, this district heating network offers a very real alternative to fossil fuels (heating oil and gas), resulting in a facility that is less susceptible to economic constraints and environmental concerns, as it will not generate any pollution emissions,” said the company.

“As a result, 100 percent green energy is made available to the companies and buildings at the park. More than 5,400 metric tons of CO2 emissions will be saved each year,” it said.

Dalkia was supported by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), but the energy provider is responsible for the design, installation and management of this new private network.

Data Furnaces

The Dalkia heating network is very similar to what Microsoft researchers proposed back in July, when they published a paper suggesting that cloud computing servers should be distributed to homes where they can act as a “data furnace”, essentially heating the building.

In the UK we of course call our furnaces “boilers”, but the idea is that these so-called data furnaces (DFs) would heat homes, and could save around £184 ($300) per server per year compared to a conventional data centre.

The DF would use the home broadband  network to hook up with the rest of the cloud, providing virtual machines for Internet-based services – while the house-owner would buy it just like a central heating boiler, and pay for the heat it produces.

It should be noted that the concept of using waste heat from computer to heat nearby structures is not a new one. Indeed, Alchemy’s data centre in Shetland does just that.

But Microsoft’s idea of turning our homes into micro-data centres with around 40 to 400 CPUs, which could be the heat source for a family home, seems somewhat unrealistic.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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