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Microsoft’s data centre to heat Finland homes

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Microsoft’s data centre to heat Finland homes

Excess heat generated by a data centre will be used to heat homes, services and businesses in Finland owing to a new partnership between Fortum and Microsoft

Fortum and Microsoft have announced a unique collaboration project, whereby Fortum will capture the excess heat generated by a new data centre region to be built by Microsoft in the Helsinki metropolitan area in Finland. The data centres will use 100% emission-free electricity, and Fortum will transfer the clean heat from the server cooling process to homes, services and business premises that are connected to its district heating system. The waste heat recycling concept from the data centre region will be the largest of its kind in the world. 

The concept is unique in that the location for the data centre region was chosen specifically with waste heat recycling in mind. It makes use of Fortum’s existing district heating infrastructure, the second largest in Finland, for heat capture and distribution. The infrastructure includes about 900 km underground pipes that transfer heat to approximately 250,000 users in the cities of Espoo and Kauniainen and the municipality of Kirkkonummi. Fortum has collaborated with the local cities and municipalities for several years in order to pave the way for these investments.  

“Developing solutions for the global climate challenge together with partners is a strategic priority for Fortum, and we are proud to embark on this exceptional journey together with Microsoft. Sometimes the most sustainable solutions are simple ones: By tapping into waste heat from data centres, we can provide clean heat for homes, businesses and public buildings in Espoo’s and the neighbouring communities’ district heating network in Finland, and reduce about 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. This is a significant step for a cleaner world, made possible by our joint ambition to mitigate climate change,” says Markus Rauramo, President and CEO of Fortum. 

District heating is the most popular method of heating premises in Finland. A district heating system is infrastructure used in cities that generates and captures heat and distributes it to buildings on a large scale. Heat is transferred in hot water that is pumped through pre-insulated underground pipes. The new generation of district heating is based on replacing fossil fuels with smart and flexible solutions, such as renewable electricity, heat pumps and waste heat utilisation. Artificial intelligence will optimise the operations of the entire system. 

Once the new data centre region’s waste heat capture is in operation, a total of about 60 percent of the area’s heating will be generated by climate-friendly waste heat. Of this, 40 percent results from the data centre region and the rest from other waste heat sources such as purified waste water. 

“The decision to invest in a data centre that also provides surplus heat to our cities and homes is a win-win. It will accelerate Finland’s digital growth while making our energy system greener. I also hope that this collaboration can serve as a model to other countries and cities looking means to achieve the double transformation of climate neutrality and digital competitiveness,” says Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland.

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