Microsoft data centers will heat up Finnish homes, reducing emissions

Finnish utility Fortum said on Thursday it would use the waste heat from two new Microsoft data centers to heat homes and businesses in and around the capital Helsinki, as well as reduce carbon emissions.

Microsoft has also announced plans to build data centers that will be powered by renewable energy, with the location chosen to recycle the heat generated by the cooling of computer servers.

District heating is widely used in Finland, hot water is pumped through pre-insulated underground pipes and has traditionally relied on fossil fuel sources.

Fortum operates a system of underground pipes extending 900 kilometers and serving 250,000 users in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Once completed, the data centers will be responsible for 40 percent of the system’s heat supply, the two organizations said.

Fortum said its investment in heat capture from data centers was estimated at 200 million euros (approximately Rs 1,682.395 crore), with the expectation that it would reduce CO2 emissions by about 400,000 tonnes a year.

Microsoft declined to say how much it would invest in the centers. However, it estimates that it will initially require about 400-500 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable energy per year, which is comparable to other local industries such as a paper or pulp mill.

Microsoft plans to buy power through one or more long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs), although no suppliers have been selected yet, the company told Reuters.

Thomson Reuters 2022

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