Digital Realty's European arm, Interxion, is sharing waste heat from its AMS5 data center at Schiphol in the Netherlands, with business parks in the town of Schiphol-Rijk outside Amsterdam.

Interxion has signed a letter of intent with Polderwarmte (English: Polder Warmth), the energy company which runs the local district heating system, as well as another five or more projects across the Netherlands. This will make AMX5 the first data center to supply large-scale heat to industrial sites in the Randstad - the main urban area of the Netherlands.

polderheat schipil.png
– Polderwarmte

Good neighbors share warmth

District heating systems are seen as a good way for cities to decarbonize the heating used by businesses and consumers, by sharing waste heat from industrial sites including data centers. However, such heating systems require capital expenditure and are rarely found outside Nordic countries. The Netherlands currently has around 18 major district heating networks and some smaller ones giving heat to 374,200 homes, but it plans to have 1.5 million households connected to a new heating system by 2030, according to Accenture.

Data centers are being encouraged to consider recycling their heat energy, but it is impossible to mandate it, given that it requires local infrastructure. The Norwegian government has demanded that data centers connect to district heating if possible, while the Climate Neutral Data Center Pact, a voluntary promise by European data center operators, requires signatories to consider joining district heating systems, if available.

The Schiphol-Rijk Energy Hub district heating system has been in development since 2017, and intends to include heat from multiple sources. Data centers provide relatively low-temperature heat so must be close to their consumers - AMS5 is at the southern tip of Schiphol-Rijk, right next to the to RichPort and Starpark industrial estates.

When the project starts, Interxion and Polderheat expect to be able to supply 45,000 GJ (12,000 MWh) of heat per year which will save 1.5 million m3 of gas. The figure also works out at an average power of 1.4MW of heat or around eight percent of the total energy used at the 14MW data center.

After five years, the partners expect to improve this to 75,000 GJ (20MWh) of heat per year - working out at 2.3MW average power.

Interxion pays a renewable tariff to use 100 percent renewable electricity, so the project will save 2,500 tons of CO2 per year at the start, rising to 4,200 of CO2 per year.

“Our efforts are continuously focused on building green, energy-efficient data centers and making existing data centers more sustainable,” says Michel van den Assem, managing director at Interxion (Google translation). “We are very much looking forward to entering into a partnership with a company such as Polderwarmte to support other companies in making their properties more sustainable. We are starting off with AMS5, but other Interxion data centers are already prepared for a possible connection to a heat network.”

Valentijn Kleijnen, CEO of Polderwarmte added:. “We are making an investment from Interxion as well as from Polder Warmth to take this sustainability step. This project contributes to the acceleration of the energy transition and has all the elements to have a flywheel effect. This allows us to make a concrete contribution more quickly to reducing the use of fossil energy.”

Other data centers in the Netherlands have found ways to get onto district heating systems. NorthC in Aalsmeer has set up a small-scale system that shares heat with a swimming pool, a school, and a plant nursery.

In Schiphol, Polderwarmte said it would like to connect other data centers throughout Schiphol-Rijk to the system.

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