Industrial Symbiosis in Heat Recovery Collaborations between Data Centers and District Heating and Cooling Companies
Abstract: Tough competition from local heating and cooling solutions fuels the pursuit of new cost efficient heat sources for district energy companies. This master thesis explores the possibilities for a district heating and cooling company to integrate data centers for recovery of residual heat. Recovery of the residual heat from data centers into the aggregated heat demand of a district energy system can lead to less primary energy input for the two operations combined. The thesis is based on a single case study on Norrenergi, a district heating and cooling company in the Stockholm region, and nine semi-structured interviews with representatives from the data center industry. An industry interview compilation, case company interviews, and literature review were applied on a framework for industrial symbiosis. Synergies, enabling factors, and obstacles to successful cross-industry collaboration was evaluated and visualized in SWOT-analyses for four different examples of configuration for integration. The analysis shows that integration of data centers into district energy systems can provide synergies on all levels of industrial symbiosis: By-product reuse; Utility/infrastructure sharing; and joint provision of services. The data center market consists of diverse actors, with a range of business models and operational conditions. Some key obstacles to instigate collaboration are related to cultural differences, reliability concerns for district cooling, uncertainty in heat delivery potential from data centers, and data center reluctance to invest in equipment for heat recovery. To mitigate the obstacles, the energy companies should tailor the service offer for each collaboration on the diversified data center market. Residual heat from data centers should be recovered in the district cooling system, where possible. When district cooling is not accessible, energy companies should explore the possibility to invest in local heat pumps for recovery into the district heating supply flow. The thesis concludes that energy companies interested in heat recovery from data centers can apply a broad range of mitigation tools to facilitate collaborations.
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