Fortum, Espoo, and Kirkkonummi data centre project advances climate targets
Data volumes, digitalisation, and cloud services are growing everywhere. More and more data centres are needed to accommodate this, and data centre operators are looking for the best locations to build them. Since new data centres will be built in any case, why not attract them to Finland? They offer cities a unique opportunity to reduce emissions from heating and support the economy.
Data centres provide heat for the greater Helsinki region
In the Espoo Clean Heat programme, Fortum’s district heat in Finland will be produced coal-free by 2025 and carbon-neutrally before 2030. A significant part of the programme’s targets can be achieved by utilising the waste heat from large-scale data centres.
In terms of the climate and energy efficiency, it makes most sense to locate large data centres in places where the waste heat generated by the cooling of the servers can be captured and used, for example, for district heating to as many customers as possible. Therefore the location of the data centre requires proximity to a district heating network, a large enough plot, and access to a secure supply of carbon-neutral electricity. These conditions are met in the greater Helsinki region.
The cities of Espoo and Kirkkonummi together with Fortum share a goal to attract two large, new data centres to the region. This is a unique opportunity for Espoo and Kirkkonummi and for making a significant contribution to mitigating the region’s total emissions. It also helps to keep district heating price competitive.
The project is one of a kind: there is no heat recovery concept of a similar scale anywhere in the world.
Emissions-free electricity makes district heating cleaner
Fortum already produces district heating by utilising the waste heat from Espoo’s waste water treatment process and from three smallish data centres. The two new data centres being planned would have a more than 100-megawatt rating and would enable the phase out of all coal and some gas in the region’s district heating network.
The leading data centre operators also aim to reduce their own carbon footprint – and the easiest way to do that is by using zero-emission electricity. If waste heat from data centres is available for use in district heating network, fossil fuel-based electricity can be replaced with clean electricity, and the overall role of clean electricity grows. The possibility to recycle excess heat to district heating increases data centres’ sustainability even further.
Important project for the regional economy
Data centres not only support climate targets, but also employment. Data centre investments can be as much as a billion euros and create local jobs and new training opportunities. A large data centre typically employs directly 100-300 people with various educational backgrounds. Indirectly, the number of new jobs is manifold – and even higher during the construction phase.
Data centres require a lot of electricity, so they need a direct power supply from Fingrid’s network.
Data centre project benefits:
Reduces emissions from heating
Supports the economy and employment
Increases recreational opportunities
Read more about data centres
Fortum and the City of Espoo have committed to carbon-neutral district heating during the 2020s in the network that operates in the Espoo, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi regions. The development work has since been accelerated with an intermediate goal to discontinue the use of coal in 2025. The accelerated project for carbon-neutrality in 2020's is called Espoo Clean Heat.
Data volumes are growing exponentially worldwide, and the use of cloud services is on the rise. This will quickly expand the need for powerful data centres. Finland has excellent opportunities to mitigate the climate impacts of digitalisation: we can offer data centres clean electricity and use the waste heat generated by the centres to replace coal-based heat production.
Head of Strategy Deployment, Generation
antti [dot] kaikkonen [at] fortum [dot] com
Director, Industrial Heat Recovery Business
ilkka [dot] toijala [at] fortum [dot] com