Microsoft Data Center Finland To Heat Nearby Cities

Software giant Microsoft is to build a new energy efficient data center region in Finland, which will supply heating to nearby cities and towns

Microsoft has confirmed it is to build a new data center region in the southern region of Finland, despite the country’s ongoing tensions with its neighbor.

Microsoft made the announcement in a blog post, in which it revealed that its new data centers in Finland will help provide heat to nearby cities.

The software giant is known for its inventive approaches to heating and cooling its server farms. Back in 2011 for example, it proposed a data furnace, essentially a tiny micro data center that would heat a home.

Data center region

More recently Microsoft experimented with submerging its servers in so called ‘bath tubs’ of ‘boiling liquid.’

The two-phase immersion cooling experiment came as Redmond sought to improve the performance and energy efficiency of server racks in data centers.

Microsoft also sunk its a couple of undersea data center near the Orkney islands, and the Project Natick team spent a couple of years monitoring and recording the performance of the subsea data center.

Microsoft raised a second data center in July 2020.

Now on Thursday Microsoft has announced it intends to build a new data center region in Southern Finland.

“To support customer needs for high availability and resilience, the new data center region will feature Azure Availability Zones, unique physical locations equipped with independent power, networking, and cooling for additional tolerance to data center failures,” said Redmond. “It will join Microsoft’s worldwide network of cloud computing infrastructure of more than 60 regions, over 280,000 kilometers of terrestrial and subsea fiber, and over 190 edge sites.”

It said the investment is in response to Finland’s growing demand for high performance, sustainable computing, and fast and reliable access to Microsoft services.

Microsoft pointed out it has more than 45,000 customers and 2,000 partner companies in Finland.

“The decision to invest in a data center region that also provides surplus heat to our cities and homes is a win-win,” said Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland.

“It will accelerate Finland’s digital growth while making our energy system greener,” said Marin. “I also hope that this collaboration can serve as a model for other countries and cities looking to achieve the double transformation of climate neutrality and digital competitiveness.”

City heating

Microsoft confirmed that it will collaborate with Fortum Corp (Finnish state-owned energy company), so that the waste heat produced in the data centers will be converted to district heating, serving Finland’s second largest city Espoo.

It will also provide heating to the neighboring town of Kauniainen, and the municipality of Kirkkonummi, in what to date will be the world’s largest scheme to recycle waste heat from data centers.

Redmond said district heating is a system for distributing heat generated either in a centralized location with fossil fuels, or as in Fortum’s case, from increasingly emission-free, distributed heat sources.

Heat is transferred to customers through a system of insulated pipes for residential and commercial heating requirements such as space and water heating.

The setup could potentially reduce up to 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The waste heat recycled for district heating, along with other measures, will help the City of Espoo and the neighboring communities to reach their ambitious CO2 emission reduction targets, leading among other things to decommissioning of Fortum’s last coal-fired heat unit in Espoo.

As one of the largest purchasers of renewable energy in the world, Microsoft will add to its portfolio with new renewable energy supply in Finland.

The company is committed to executing power purchase agreements equivalent to 100 percent of its energy needs by 2025.

“Finland is at the forefront of digitalization and innovation, and the nation’s world-class companies and forward-looking public sector organizations are leading in the digital transformation of their sectors,” said Cindy Rose, President of Microsoft Western Europe.

“We are incredibly proud of the novel way this data center will sustainably power Finnish digital transformation, while also heating Finnish homes and businesses and helping cities achieve their emissions targets,” said Rose.

“In this unique collaboration, Microsoft and Fortum combine their world-leading expertise in cloud computing and sustainable energy solutions, transforming the design thinking of data centers of the future.”

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