Data centres as Gamechangers for Urban Energy Supply: City of Frankfurt am Main Could Cover Most of its Heating Needs by 2030 with Waste Heat

eco supports planned lighthouse project of the Federal Environment Ministry “DC-HEAT” to promote waste heat recovery in data centres through artificial intelligence

With advancing digitalisation, the global demand for computing power is increasing, and with it the energy requirements for data centres. This development is particularly evident in the European data centre hotspot Frankfurt am Main. There, the energy requirements of data centres in the region could as much as double within the next three to four years.

But the strong data centre infrastructure also means an opportunity for future energy concepts, especially in conurbations like Frankfurt am Main. After all, data centres are not only the backbone of digitalisation, they also offer the opportunity to achieve the climate targets at federal, state and local level.

Mathematically, the waste heat from the data centres in Frankfurt could, by the year 2030, cover the city’s entire heat demand stemming from private households and office buildings. This offers the opportunity to realise the city’s heating supply, which has so far been 90% based on the primary energy source gas, in a climate-friendly way in the future.*

This is the conclusion of a consortium of research institutions, data centres and associations that wants to realise a lighthouse project, under the name of DC-HEAT (Data Center Heat Exchange with AI Technologies), for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to enable the “heat transition” in Frankfurt am Main.

The focus of the project – also supported by the Alliance for Strengthening Digital Infrastructures founded under the umbrella of eco – Association of the Internet Industry – is on the use of waste heat from data centres with the help of artificial intelligence.

“So far, there are still a number of economic, technical and regulatory challenges to achieving such a vision,” explains Dr Ralph Hintemann from the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability, one of the initiators of the funding project, along with the University of Paderborn and the energy supplier Westfalenwind IT. “Our research has shown that significant contributions can be made to overcome these challenges with the help of AI applications.” Germany, and especially Frankfurt as a data centre location, could play a pioneering role here, Hintemann continues.

To date, there has been little use of waste heat from data centres in Germany. In Frankfurt in particular, however, there are currently a number of projects in the pipeline. The DC-HEAT project aims to contribute to achieving the heat transition in Frankfurt through the use of artificial intelligence.

  • Project Summary (in German): https://www.borderstep.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Kurzfassung-Ergebnisse-DC-Heat.pdf