Data barns full of humming, heating computer servers are to be piloted as heat sources running district heat networks, energy ministry D-ESNZ confirmed today.

Scores of thousands of new homes and premises divided between London, Lancaster, Watford and Suffolk will benefit from the £65 million trial, warmed with streamed pixels and wonga from Whitehall’s Green Heat Network fund.

In a UK first, waste heat from the server barns close to new construction sites will be being recycled as a source of both low carbon comfort for homes and factories, as well as of thousands of new high-tech jobs.

Heat in buildings is estimated to account for 30% of all UK emissions. So the transition to networks pumped with second-life heat is a major plank in the nation’s drive towards Net Zero.

In north west London, the Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation straddles premises in the boroughs of Brent, Ealing, and Hammersmith & Fulham. The Corporation’s upgraded heat network, backed by £36 million of government cash, will connect 10,000 new homes and 250,000 square metres of commercial space to waste heat from rack-heavy computer ‘barns’.

OPDC chief executive David Lunts enthused: “Recycling the huge amounts of wasted heat from this locality’s 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”.

Lancaster University will fully decarbonise its campus, courtesy of £21 million given in support of a new low-carbon heat network.  Lagged pipes both over- & underground will warm its 15,000 students with heat from a large electric pump, powered by a new solar PV farm and an existing wind turbine.

Today’s round of funding comes on top of £122 million already awarded to support eleven new heat networks across the country, under the government’s Green Heat Network Fund.

Energy secretary Claire Coutinho said: “Innovative projects, like these announced today, are another example of why the UK is a world leader in cutting carbon emissions.

“We are investing in the technologies of the future so that families across the country will now be able to warm their homes with low-carbon, recycled heat, while creating thousands of new skilled jobs.”

Brent will benefit further, receive £5.2 million for a district network in south Kilburn. 2,900 customers on 34 sites will receive heat generated by air source heat pumps via a 2.79km pipe network. Gas boilers will linger as back-up.

In Suffolk, a new housing estate at Chilton Woods will see nearly a thousand homes and a primary school provided with low-carbon heating. Awarded £745,000, the project will also include a thermal battery, meaning excess energy generated can be fed into the National Grid.

Watford Community Housing (WCH), a not-for-profit provider of approximately 5,700 homes, gets £1.8 million to strip out old gas burners in its district network, replacing them with ground source and air source pumps. Turned toasty in consequence will be 252 flats in six blocks.

Energy efficiency minister Lord Callanan added to his boss’s words:   “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.”


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