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Waste heat from data centres to keep London homes warm

by Mark Cantrell
One of five projects announced to share £65m of government funding is a scheme to use waste heat from data centres to warm homes in London

The power of data is about to be unleashed in London – kind of – to help keep thousands of homes warm, the government has announced.

Waste heat from nearby data centres will be harvested for use to provide domestic heating in a project said to be the first of its kind in the UK. It’s one of five green heating projects awarded a share of a £65m pot of government funding.

The Old Oak Park Royal development in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham will be the first of its kind to recycle waste heat from large computer systems storing internet data to supply heating for the local community.

David Lunts, chief executive of the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation, said: “Recycling the huge amounts of wasted heat from our local data centres into heat and energy for local residents, a major hospital, and other users is an exciting and innovative example of OPDC’s support for the mayor’s net zero ambitions.”

The heat network, backed by £36m in government support, will connect 10,000 new homes and 250,000m2 of commercial space to a low-carbon energy source. This will help keep bills low and contribute to the UK’s drive to reach net zero by 2050, according to the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ).

Claire Coutinho, energy security secretary, said: “Innovative projects, like these announced today, are another example of why the UK is a world leader in cutting carbon emissions.

“We are investing in the technologies of the future so that families across the country will now be able to warm their homes with low-carbon, recycled heat – while creating thousands of new skilled jobs.”

Lord Callanan, minister for energy efficiency and green finance, added: “Keeping homes warm with waste heat from technology is a glimpse into the future – and demonstrates just how innovative this country can be when it comes to reducing our carbon emissions.

“The £65m million we’ve awarded today will help spread this success across the country, by rolling out innovative low-carbon heating to help to drive down energy bills and deliver our net zero goal.”

Another of the projects to be awarded funding today will see Lancaster University fully decarbonise its campus, by receiving over £21m in support for a new low-carbon heat network. The heat network will supply heat to the university campus using a large heat pump, powered by a new solar farm and existing wind turbine.

Project innovation

Heat networks supply heating and hot water to homes and businesses via heat pumps or sources from underground, manufacturing, and waste management. They help cut carbon emissions by supplying heat to multiple buildings from a central source, avoiding the need for households and workplaces to rely on individual, energy-intensive heating solutions, such as gas boilers.

The transition to heat networks forms a major part of the UK’s carbon reduction commitment, with heating in buildings making up 30% of all UK emissions.

Today’s round of funding comes on top of £122m already awarded to support 11 new heat network projects across the country, DESNZ says, under the government’s Green Heat Network Fund.

Aside from the projects mentioned, the remaining ones announced to receive funding are:

  • A new heat pump housing estate in Chilton Woods, Suffolk, which will see nearly a thousand homes and a primary school provided with low-carbon heating. The project, which has received £745,000, will also include a thermal store, meaning any excess energy generated from the system will be fed into the wider National Grid
  • The London Borough of Brent will receive nearly £5.2m for the South Kilburn District Heat Network, supplying heat using air source heat pumps combined with back up gas boilers to 34 sites via a 2.79km pipe network, connecting 2,900 customers
  • Watford Community Housing (WCH), a not-for-profit housing association with approximately 5,700 homes, will receive £1.8m of funding to replace an old gas district heating system with ground source and air source heat pumps. This will provide heat to 252 apartments across six blocks

Matthew Basnett, heat policy lead at the Association for Decentralised Energy, said: “Heat decarbonisation in buildings is a huge challenge, and one that is often fundamentally misunderstood – heat networks are the only internationally proven route for decarbonising heat at scale, yet most people don’t know what they are.

“We are excited to see that another round of the Green Heat Network Fund has been successful, and celebrate the news that a first-in-the-UK development will use waste heat from data centres to keep more than 10,000 homes warm, comfortable and affordable in the long-term.”

Picture credit: Jonathan Hammond/Pixabay

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