Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Yandex to Turn Waste Heat into Space Heat

Yandex, the Russian-language search engine that dominates the sector in Eastern Europe, is working hard to become as dominant in its market as Google is just about everywhere else. Now it turns out they are not competing just in the arena of organic searches and mobile computing; Yandex is also going after green technology. The company recently announced an agreement with a city in southern Finland that will turn waste heat from its data centres into space heat.

Yandex operates multiple data centres near the city of Mäntsälä, a rather small city just 40 miles north of Helsinki. The city's relatively modest size makes it an ideal candidate for tapping the waste heat produced by the two data centres as a means of providing municipal space heat for local residents. Yandex has struck a deal with Finnish energy company Mäntsälän Sähkö OY to harness the waste heat.

Turning the waste heat into municipal space heat is expected to reduce heating costs for local residents by as much as 5% over the next year. It should also significantly reduce natural gas consumption by the local utility provider. Both benefits will combine to help the EU get one step closer to reaching its CO2 emissions targets that need to be achieved by 2030. The city itself hopes the deal will cut its emissions by as much as 40%.

How It Will Work

Turning the heat produced by cooling data servers into usable space heat will require the city to move water from its municipal system to the two data centres. That water will pass through heat exchangers capable of transferring heat collected through ventilators in server areas. The water will then be returned through the system and back into the city network. It is a relatively straightforward principle that has proved successful in numerous other projects of a similar nature.

Yandex Data Factory CEO Jane Zavalashina spoke in her official remarks of her company's commitment to environmental responsibility. She noted that it was part of the Yandex ethos to use data centres efficiently and, where possible, to use that increased efficiency to reduce environmental impacts.

The news of the Finnish project is not all that unusual in terms of the technology being harnessed. What makes it unusual is Yandex' emergence as a green technology partner along the same lines as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others. The fact that the Russian company has decided to go this route shows the rest of the world that they have no intention of sitting idly by while other big names lead the way environmentally.

In a day and age where virtualisation and cloud computing is requiring ever-more powerful servers, the average data centre will be producing significantly more heat in the coming years. Harnessing that heat through efficient cooling technologies that also allow the exploitation of that heat for other purposes only makes sense. The citizens of Mäntsälä are on the verge of finding that out first hand.

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