Apple’s data center in Viborg, Denmark, is expected to soon heat nearby homes. Earlier this year, Cupertino announced its intention to build new infrastructure to capture the heat emitted from its Danish data center. Today, the company has trusted The Wall Street Journal that the infrastructure must be connected to the local heating network during 2023.
For Apple, the idea of recycling heat from its Viborg site is not new: it mentioned this plan in its 2017 report on environmental responsibility, but only announced the construction in 2022. The plan finally seems to see the end of the tunnel: the company has declared, that it will connect its data center to the local heating network as part of an expansion. She says that she collaborates with local authorities on how to use the heat from the plant.
The idea of recovering heat from data centers has become much more enticing across the tech industry since the war-related energy price spike in Ukraine. In addition, governments are beginning to put pressure on the owners of data centers by implementing tax incentives or by making the maneuver mandatory for signing a building permit. The EU has a directive on the way that obliges center operators to carry out feasibility studies on the use of their excess heat to heat homes and offices.
Meta, for its part, has been recovering heat from its data center in Odense (Denmark) since 2020. The site is in full expansion, and Mark Zuckerberg’s company plans to supply enough heat to heat around 11,000 homes this year. Google said it was evaluating options to recover heat from its data centers in Europe.
If the idea has been in the minds of Silicon Valley CEOs for a long time, it is not easy to put it into practice: technical and legal issues arise. Most data centers do not extract the air as hot as most municipal heating systems require, requiring the installation of additional heat pumps.
The issue of contracts is also a source of concern, as data center owners cannot commit to ten years like the energy companies. Finally, there is still the problem of infrastructure and the fact that cities do not need heat all year round, which means that you lose part of the production.