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Michael Nilsson and Marcus Sandberg, Luleå University of Technology Photo: Linda Alfredsson
Michael Nilsson, left, project manager at the Centre for Distance-Spanning Technolgy, and Marcus Sandberg, researcher of Construction Engineering and Management and project manager for Green Power. Photo: Linda Alfredsson View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Datacenter warms greenhouse cultivation

Published: 4 March 2016

Mushrooms grown in greenhouses heated by using waste heat from data centers. That can become a reality when researchers at Luleå University of Technology take on the project Green Power.

– From a sustainability perspective, it is not really acceptable to do nothing about waste heat, says Michael Nilsson, project manager at the Centre for Distance-Spanning Technology, CDT.

Data centers is a growing industry that is really expanding in northern Sweden. Here, there are good conditions; it’s cold and there is green and safe electricity close to the power source resulting in less energy loss. The project is about taking advantage of the heat that data centers emit with cooling air. Since the waste heat keeps a relatively low temperature, usually between 30–50 degrees Celsius, it has been difficult to find use for it in a cold climate without adding extra energy.

Mushrooms out of waste heat

By using KnCMiners data center in Boden, the researchers will now investigate whether it is possible to use the waste heat to power a greenhouse and in this case, examine whether it is possible to grow mushrooms in it. The project is interdisciplinary; four research subjects at the university are involved: Fluid Mechanics, Energy Engineering, Control Engineering and Construction Engineering and Management.

– We will, among other things, measure the temperature of the waste heat over a whole year and see how warm it really is, says Marcus Sandberg, project manager for Green Power and Associate Senior Lecturer of Construction Engineering and Management.

– Researchers will create computer models of the heat transfer solution and the greenhouse to find out which design that best serves our purposes. It will be interesting to see if the heat really is enough. If we reach bearing on our theories, we hope that the project can eventually grow and that the theories will actually turn into practice.

Reduced carbon footprint

The goal is to develop a methodology to measure heat and air flows from data centers and to create computer models that can be used to design and evaluate the transfer of heat from data centers to greenhouses, can work. The implementation consists of four main activities: measurement, modeling, assessment of the possibility to cultivate and disruption analysis.

– This will give existing data centers an opportunity to reduce their carbon dioxide footprint at the same time as we reduce the need of transporting vegetables, which also means less carbon dioxide emissions, says Michael Nilsson.

Besides Luleå University of Technology, SLU Umeå, Vattenfall, Ericsson, KnCMiner, Bodens energy, Bodens kommun, Hydro 66, Boden Business Agency, SICS North Swedish ICT, Enaco and Hushållningssällskapet, participate in the project. The project is partly financed by the Swedish Energy Agency.

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