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Europeans resort to desperate measures to find heat amid energy crisis


Daily Caller News Foundation

European countries are looking to recycle the heat generated by data centers to warm homes, the latest in a series of measures to find heat amid an ongoing energy crisis, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The years-long European debate about how to best recover heat from data centers, as opposed to simply letting it vent, is finally begin to bear fruit, as spiking energy prices driven by the fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine make the foray into heat recovery a more financially solid endeavor for tech companies, according to the WSJ. Government tax breaks, such as those offered in France and Denmark, and pressure from both the European Union (E.U.) and members of the general public to increase energy efficiency of power-hungry data centers, have also incentivized Big Tech firms and contracted operators to reconsider their heating strategies.

As Russia continues to cut natural gas deliveries to the E.U., Germans have also purchased candles and space-heaters at record levels to keep energy costs down at the behest of the government. Coal usage has increased worldwide in response to the soaring price of natural gas, with Germany, Austria and the Netherlands restarting or reducing restrictions on the use of coal-fired power plants.

Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have all announced plans to or begun integrating their data centers in Ireland, Denmark and Finland to local heating systems, the WSJ reported. Facebook-parent Meta has had its data center in Odense, Denmark, integrated into the local heating network since 2020, and intends to increase recovery efforts to generate enough heat by the end of 2023 to keep 11,000 homes warm.

Google, who has major data centers across the continent, is currently investigating the ways its sites could be integrated into heating networks, the WSJ reported. Data center-operators, such as Equinix, are also set to expand or introduce new heat recycling measures.

The controversial practice of logging and burning wood – which the E.U. considers to be its largest renewable resource — has also intensified this year, despite significant backlash from scientists and activists who dispute its categorization as a renewable energy source.

Still, there are technical and financial challenges for tech companies trying to enter the heating market, according to the WSJ. The hot air typically vented by data centers needs to be pumped together to be heated to useful temperatures, for example, and energy companies typically look for 10-year contracts, far beyond the typical financial planning of some data center managers.

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