Asetek A/S in Aalborg has produced an advertising campaign criticizing politicians who, in the quest for snappy, marketable punchlines, have chosen not to discuss the gigantic potential for carbon-neutral recycling of the heat produced by hyperscale data centres. By doing this recycling, Denmark and The European Union could much more easily live up to The United Nations' climate goals.
All parties in the current political elections have named the huge global climate challenges as one of the most important topics. That is why Denmark's politicians, with Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Mette Frederiksen and others such as Uffe Elbaek in the vanguard, are being accused of HOT AIR. They are being accused of not taking seriously one of the biggest climate challenges—hyperscale data centres' energy consumption—in their individual struggle to deliver snappy, marketable punchlines that work immediately on television in their quest for votes in the EU elections this coming Sunday, and also Denmark's general election on 5 July 2019. The critique appears in full-page ‘election advertisements’ placed by Asetek A/S in the biggest Danish national newspapers on Thursday 23 May. The successful and internationally oriented technology firm in Aalborg has specialized in water cooling of personal computers since 2003, and of large data centres since 2012.
The Danish Energy Agency, with backing from the Danish Council on Climate Change, predicts that the running costs of hyperscale data centres will actually constitute as much as 17% of Denmark's power consumption and accompanying potential climate footprint in 2030. These centres provide, among other things, streaming of our Netflix and HBO films etc., powering social media services and generally keeping our tablets and smartphones running in sixth gear whilst online. Keeping the data centres running costs enormous amounts of energy. This creates a colossal climate footprint, internationally even larger than that of the much-maligned airline industry—if nothing is done about it.
This is dismissive of the voters and of the obvious solution—because, actually, there are recognized and proven technical solutions that would enable realistic requirements to be imposed on companies such as Apple (who right now are building a centre near Viborg), Google in Fredericia and Facebook in Odense, explains Asetek CEO André Sloth Eriksen. He continues:
‘Based on our own experience, we at Asetek can see that politicians, or perhaps in reality their cynical campaign staff, consciously avoid tackling this subject, because the potential can't be explained in a few words, despite the technology being very simple. Most of them underestimate their voters' and not least the datacentres’ big climate problems and their obvious solution. They would rather talk about electric cars, offshore windfarms and meat-free days, which the politicians perhaps imagine that every voter and journalist does have an opinion about, but this does not readily solve the pressing problem with regard to data centres. In other words: this is mostly hot air without significant effect in the short term.’
André Sloth Eriksen emphasizes that he definitely does not want to close data centres in Denmark only to see them continue their energy-hungry and climate-damaging business elsewhere. Data centres are in principle an asset we cannot do without, either in 2019 or in 2030. He is also willing to admit that Asetek, which earned $4 – 5 million last year, also has an economic interest because of its clear technical ability to create much more than its present 100 or so jobs – most of them in Denmark – if politicians have the courage to insist on the obvious demands.
‘Realistic, simple requirements can force hyperscale data centres like the ones being built now, with even more on the way in Denmark and around the world, to recycle their massive energy consumption in the form of district heating systems, with the caveat that this should include only hot water, not the heat pumps much criticized by politicians. The method used could be Asetek’s water cooling on the processors, but there are other practical technologies which are tried and tested and internationally approved, with the added bonus that they cost next to nothing. We believe voters should be informed and be allowed to judge this new technology before the forthcoming environmentally important elections to the EU and Danish parliaments. In the final analysis, they should consider whether we in Denmark, as a leading climate nation, can bring this to the rest of the European Union’, states André Sloth Eriksen.
‘The requirements need not be too different from normal, everyday EU standards which, for example, were imposed on car manufacturers and which led to the invention of catalytic converters and particle filters for diesel cars. Politicians state time and time again on television that we should take action, and that we should solve the problem with technology. I cannot see what they are doing about it in practical terms, even though politicians' other demands sound good on television.’
The Asetek CEO adds that he personally has been in dialogue in recent months with many Danish politicians who are thoroughly informed about the technological possibilities and their relevance. ‘Uffe Elbaek is one of the politicians with whom we have had conversations, and I have the impression that he is positive, but unfortunately has not found a way to do anything about it. In the same way and with the same result, we have had discussions with Mette Frederiksen, Lars Løkke Rasmussen and their respective campaign staff, not to mention with members of the Danish Parliament and EU politicians. Everyone seems positive, but apparently not many of them regard it as their responsibility to make this a point of their political agenda. We could not even get Mette to visit our company, which is in her own constituency, despite environmental issues being close to the Social Democrats' heart. Now we will do what we can with our advertising campaign to inform voters, so they can judge for themselves what the possibilities are’, concludes André Eriksen.
The facts: Aalborg-based quoted company Asetek A/S is already cooling 13 of the world's biggest supercomputers/data centres, from the atomic authorities in the USA to the Research Ministry in Taiwan. With Asetek's water cooling directly on the processors, the cooling water from the data centres can be delivered straight to the district heating network for carbon-neutral (re-)use at the optimum temperature of about 60 degrees—and not just in the form of lukewarm water requiring top-up heating, contrary to what many decision-makers still believe. If similar technology were to be adopted by the hyperscale players such as Facebook, Google and Apple, a carbon footprint equivalent to that of the whole world’s air traffic could be eliminated on an annual basis. Builders and operators of data centres ought to be subject to an EU standard, exactly as the car industry is. In Denmark alone, 300,000 households could be heated carbon-neutrally using surplus heat from data centres if they were water-cooled, for example. At European Union level, 6 million households could be heated.
Read more about Asetek and the green data centre solution here (Danish): www.grønneredata centre.nu.
There are also two newly produced Asetek videos, each less than 3 minutes long:
- This is an illustration of our technology: water cooling directly on the processors with 60° hot water to the district heating network without the need for heat pumps: https://youtu.be/S8EwueGAZmc
- Professor of Energy Planning Henrik Lund presents our own data centre (which is now being connected to the Aalborg District Heating Installation) and speaks about topics including the operational and climatic perspectives of our technology in relation to district heating: https://youtu.be/YT2iOUd57Oc
Pictured: Asetek's CEO and CFO - André Sloth Eriksen (right with jeans) and Peter Dam Madsen i Asetek's engineering department.