Data centers are not only energy guzzlers, but could also make a significant contribution to reducing energy consumption in the Netherlands. The code word here is ‘residual heat’, which could potentially benefit one million households.
Stijn Grove, managing director at the Dutch Data Center Association, sees many opportunities to make rapid progress. ‘Outsourcing IT from local data centers at companies to large data centers or cloud services can save a lot of energy.’ A good example is the Dutch government, which has moved old, small IT rooms to large data centers and has thus been able to reduce power consumption by half, says Grove.
However, data centers are major consumers of electricity. Partly for this reason, there was a lot of opposition to the construction of a data center of Meta, the parent company of Facebook. Its construction has been postponed. But, says Grove, ‘it is precisely because of scaling up that you can work more efficiently.’ According to the Dutch Data Center Association, the power consumption of the data centers has fallen sharply in the last 15 years. ‘There is also a lot of potential to save a lot more energy.’
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In addition, the foundation believes that the use of data thermal energy, the heat released during the cooling of the data centers, can make a significant contribution to reducing energy consumption in the Netherlands. ‘This residual heat can be used to heat houses. The Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam will soon be disconnected from the gas and will be heated with this data thermal’, says Grove. Potentially, this technology could power a million homes from the gas.
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‘Mindset must be different’
According to the Dutch Data Center Association, the fact that this has not yet happened is partly due to the traditional focus of the Netherlands on the use of gas. ‘We have to get rid of that, the mindset has to change so that investments can be made in heat networks and comparable solutions, such as the use of residual heat from the data centers.’