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Harnessing waste heat from data centre cooling at HS2 interchange

Above: The HS2 station site, under construction at Old Oak Common in 2022 (Courtesy HS2 Ltd)

The Mayor of London’s development corporation, OPDC (Old Oak Common and Park Royal Development Corporation) has been awarded £36 million from the government’s Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF) to harness waste heat from the cooling of several data centres.

The innovative project is the first of its kind to secure GHNF support and will provide low carbon heating captured from data centres into buildings. It forms part of a wider £65m award from the GHNF to five projects across the UK.

The network is located in the largest adopted Opportunity Area in London spanning three London Boroughs. Old Oak West, OPDC’s planned new development area, around the future Old Oak Common Station, will deliver over 9,000 homes and 250,000m2 of commercial development.

It is one of the UK’s largest and most important urban brownfield regeneration projects which includes the Old Oak HS2 and Elizabeth Line interchange. The development will have excellent connectivity for the thousands of new and affordable homes in the area and the new district heating network is key to achieving a zero carbon and sustainable new urban district.

The funding award of £36 million will support the commercialisation and construction of the district heat network. This substantial scheme is expected to deliver 95GWh of heat across 5 phases between 2026 and 2040. The Old Oak development will create 22,000 new jobs.

The Mayor of London’s Local Energy Accelerator (LEA) funding programme, which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, has also provided almost £400,000 to fund technical expertise to develop the OPDC-led heat network. The LEA, which funds the development of clean, locally generated energy projects, including heat networks, has just been extended to March 2024 with £3 million additional funding provide by the Mayor of London.

Data centres offer a predictable supply of low grade heat (between 20oC and 35oC) which is often wasted with many centre operators running inefficient plants to reject this heat into the atmosphere. As a result of this scheme, the wasted heat will instead be distributed to a number of energy centres via a plastic “ambient” network, where it will supply heat pumps that then raise the temperature to Low Temperature Hot Water “LTHW”. This will then be piped via a traditional steel network to a mixture of new and existing residential buildings.

Infrastructure consultancy AECOM is designing the heat network.

David Lunts, OPDC Chief Executive, said:

'Recycling the huge amounts of wasted heat from our local data centres into heat and energy for local residents, a major hospital and other users is an exciting and innovative example of OPDC’s support for the Mayor’s net zero ambitions. We are excited to be leading the way in developing low carbon infrastructure, supporting current and future generations of Londoners in Old Oak and Park Royal to live more sustainably.' Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance added:

'Keeping homes warm with waste heat from technology is a glimpse into the future - and demonstrates just how innovative this country can be when it comes to reducing our carbon emissions. 'The £65 million we’ve awarded today will help spread this success across the country, by rolling out innovative low-carbon heating to help to drive down energy bills and deliver our net zero goal.'

Jo Streeten, Managing Director, Buildings + Places – Europe and India, AECOM 'This is a fantastic opportunity for the new communities emerging within the OPDC area to lead the way in how our cities can operate more sustainably, by using the waste heat sourced from data centres. 'An enormous amount of stakeholder collaboration and technical expertise has gone into getting us to this point, but we now have a blueprint for an innovative ambient heat network which we hope will provide a template for future developments.'


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