On the network

Data centres, heat networks and water quality

In our always-connected world, data centres are the engines of technical progress. And as artificial intelligence sweeps the globe, they are set for huge growth. Property consultants JLL predict that the next five years will see an 18.5% annual growth rate of data centre storage capacity. Here in the UK, Glenigan highlighted data centre developments as one of the most promising sources of work for the construction sector in 2024.

This level of growth creates several challenges, and one of the most pressing is power usage. Data centres are using increasing amounts of power to handle growing levels of data, straining local supplies wherever they are located. Globally, governments are concerned about how to balance their need for high-tech solutions with drains on their energy grid.

Re-use the waste heat

One solution to this problem is to re-use the waste heat from data centres in heat networks connected to nearby buildings – offices, government facilities and even homes. In this way, the data centre plays its part in reducing local heating costs, while redistributing the heat energy in an efficient way.

Using data centres as heat sources for heat networks is already being adopted in countries like Norway and parts of the USA. Germany has also introduced legislation imposing an Energy Reuse Factor (ERF) on data centres to drive take-up of heat reuse options. The UK is also going down the road of introducing similar requirements, particularly as it regards heat networks as crucial for reducing our reliance on gas for heating.

Critical importance

Water is a critical medium for data centre cooling and heat re-use, and water quality impacts the performance of both. It’s equally important in heat networks, where failure to monitor and maintain water quality will quickly lead to system deterioration. If the two have a joint future in supplying low-carbon heat for homes and other buildings, water quality must be at the top of the agenda for designers and facilities teams.

Water’s energy-carrying properties are degraded by suspended solids such as iron, for example. This holds heat and reduces transfer efficiency at heat exchange surfaces – impacting both heating and cooling systems.

In the long-term, if left untreaded, poor quality water will impact the performance of other equipment in the system such as heat exchangers, increasing the likelihood of breakdowns and the expense of replacements.

But keeping checks on water quality is challenging in a busy data centre environment and may not always be practical for widespread heat networks. Enwa’s Side Stream filtration system filters to less than 10 microns, inhibiting corrosion, controlling scale and restricting bacterial growth – all vital for heat network functioning.

Importantly, it’s a dynamic, self-regulating process that ensures the correct treatment is always in place, providing a practical and cost-effective approach for busy FM teams.

Prevention is always better than cure

At Enwa, we have worked with many clients across a range of sectors and we know that keeping track of every aspect of a building’s operation is increasingly challenging. Our goal is to provide a robust and compliant treatment system that provides peace-of-mind, backed by our in-house expertise that can provide advice backed by years of experience.

The most important message we always share with our customers is that when it comes to water quality issues, prevention is always better than cure.

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