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Reducing GHGs and energy costs by reusing heat from servers

A project carried out in collaboration with ÉTS researchers

Friday, January 14, 2022
Danielle Montfet and Didier Haillot
Danielle Montfet and Didier Haillot.

Reusing the heat released by servers to power greenhouses while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption... Sounds too good to be true?

Well, Danielle Monfet and Didier Haillot, both engineering researchers at the École de technologie supérieure de Montréal (ÉTS), have collaborated on a pilot project aimed at recovering the heat released by a data centre to heat an experimental greenhouse on the Côte-Nord. And the results are very encouraging. 

This pilot project, spearheaded by the Société d'aide au développement de la collectivité (SADC) Manicouagan, was carried out in collaboration with the Centre d'expertise et de développement de la forêt boréale (CEDFOB) of CEGEP Baie-Comeau. The company Argo Blockchain made its servers available. 

The two ÉTS researchers were responsible for estimating the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) that this pilot project prevented from being released into the air. “In more concrete terms, numerical models of the greenhouse’s thermal behaviour allowed us to compare the amount of GHGs emitted by a conventional greenhouse heated with propane gas, with a greenhouse powered by heat from a data centre,” explained Professor Haillot. However, in order to use the heat that would otherwise have been lost, it had to be increased by a few degrees using a heat pump. 

Despite this operation, the data proved to be very conclusive: the greenhouse powered by the data centre would emit 91% less GHGs than a conventional greenhouse. When coupled with a storage system, the heat pump would reduce annual energy consumption by 66% compared to a gas furnace. 

It should be noted, however, that this study is only valid for a conventional greenhouse heated with propane. The results could be different if the greenhouse were heated with another energy source, such as solar, wind or natural gas. An in-depth economic study will therefore have to be carried out to investigate the potential of this pilot project.

This is good news for people living in remote areas, who have to deal with food supply issues. Not to mention that the energy supply of these regions often relies on fossil fuels that also generate greenhouse gases.

Imagine the possibilities: buildings and even entire neighbourhoods could reuse the heat from the many data centres located on their territory, which would thereby contribute to significantly reducing their ecological footprint. 

Now that’s some hopeful news for 2022!

To find out more: 

Des ordinateurs pour chauffer une serre  (French only)

Chantal Crevier

Communications and Student recruitment 

(514) 396-8800, ext. 7893

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