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A material social view on data center waste heat: Novel uses and metrics

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Article number1008583
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>25/01/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Frontiers in Sustainability
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)1-22
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Today's data centers use substantial amounts of the world's electrical supply. However, in line with circular economy concepts, much of this energy can be reused. Such reuse includes the heating of buildings, but also commodity dehydration, electricity production and energy storage. This multi-disciplinary paper presents several novel applications for data center waste heat. Next, the paper accounts for three case studies, taken from three different societal contexts: urban Malaysia, rural Costa Rica and semi-urban Sweden. A discussion on data center energy metrics leads to the development of a new metric, Datacenter Energy Sustainability Score (DESS), which is evaluated within the three use cases. Last, it is shown how a material social view on metrics provides a way past a problem that has haunted the data center industry for the last 15 years, whilst benefitting both data center owners who want to compete through sustainability as well as stakeholders from governments on local, regional and national levels. The paper makes clear that a sustainability strategy should be based on a material social view and stretch beyond the building itself. In fact, and as demonstrated by the relevance of DESS, modern data centers are so energy-efficient that data center sustainability is no longer mainly an engineering issue, but a matter requiring multi-disciplinary insights, approaches and collaboration.