Heat from servers to keep university students warm

Edinburgh University chiller
Chillers on the roof prevent the server room from overheating [BBC]

Heat from one of Edinburgh University's large server rooms is to be used to keep students in some buildings warm, it has been announced.

At the moment, the computer equipment in the university's King's Buildings is prevented from overheating by chiller units on the roof which pump cool air into the server bays.

The university plans to install a heat pump which will take the excess warm air from the servers and use it to help heat the building.

It has received about £2.1m from a Scottish government fund for decarbonising public buildings.

It is hoped the pilot project can then be replicated using server rooms across the university's estate.

Catheine Martin
Vice principal Catherine Martin said the server rooms created waste energy [BBC]

Under the Edinburgh University plans, the pipes which currently extract warm air from the server cabinets will remain in place, meaning little disruption to the university estate.

But the new heat pump will extract warmth from the piped air and use it to heat separate pipes which go to radiators and under-floor heating around the university.

Vice principal Catherine Martin said the server rooms created waste energy which they aimed to capture.

But many of the university's properties have listed building status and will take significant investment in measures such as insulation to make the heat pump systems work.

"We've got a large and complex estate at the university - 550 buildings, each with its own challenges," Ms Martin said.

Edinburgh University server bays
Server rooms have to be chilled to protect against overheating [University of Edinburgh]

Heating public buildings accounts for about 2% of Scotland's total planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Residential heating is a much larger problem, responsible for about 15% of emissions.

Grant Ferguson, director of estates and net-zero at the university, said after the initial investment it would cut heating costs for them by about 8%.

He said: "This is a pilot. We hope to replicate this on smaller data centres but also far bigger data centres. So, this is very much a starting point for us."

Patrick Harvie MSP
Net Zero minister Patrick Harvie said the Scottish government had committed £20m to decarbonising public sector buildings [BBC]

The Scottish government's £20m public sector heat decarbonisation fund provides grants to help make buildings free from carbon emissions.

In the first round of announcements, £11m has been awarded to seven projects.

Dumfries Ice Bowl has received £2.5m to capture heat generated from the refrigeration system which keeps the ice frozen.

Net Zero minister Patrick Harvie said: "We have made clear that we want all public sector buildings to have moved to clean heat by the end of 2038.

"We expect the public sector to demonstrate leadership in this area and I am therefore very pleased to be able to confirm these first awards from the fund."

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