Microsoft Azure: Microsoft announces new Finland cloud region that will help to decarbonize local heating systems

Mar 18, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Microsoft has announced that it is building a new data center region in Finland, joining Fortum's project to heat local homes and businesses in the Helsinki metropolitan area, and help decarbonize heating systems. This is reportedly the world's largest data center heat recovery project.

For years, Fortum was looking for the right partner to join the project, and had requirements that the partner would have a facility as large as 100MW. Often, data center heat is low quality, and facilities are usually not close enough to district heating systems, but it has found the right partner in Microsoft. The collaborative project will see Forum transfer clean heat from the facility's cooling process and transfer the heat to approximately 250,000 users in the cities of Espoo and Kauniainen and the municipality of Kirkkonummi via 900km of underground pipes.

According to the announcement, the project won't be heating homes until the late 2020's - however, by that point, it is predicted that 60% of heating in the area will be generated by 'climate-friendly waste heat', 40% of this will be derived from the new data center area and the rest from waste heat sources including purified wastewater.

Speaking about this new sustainable solution, Markus Rauramo, President and CEO of Fortum, said: "Developing solutions for the global climate challenge together with partners is a strategic priority for Fortum, and we are proud to embark on this exceptional journey together with Microsoft. Sometimes the most sustainable solutions are simple ones: By tapping into waste heat from data centres, we can provide clean heat for homes, businesses and public buildings in Espoo's and the neighbouring communities' district heating network in Finland, and reduce about 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. This is a significant step for a cleaner world, made possible by our joint ambition to mitigate climate change."

The project has backing from Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin, too, who commented: "The decision to invest in a data centre that also provides surplus heat to our cities and homes is a win-win. It will accelerate Finland's digital growth while making our energy system greener. I also hope that this collaboration can serve as a model to other countries and cities looking means to achieve the double transformation of climate neutrality and digital competitiveness."

Meanwhile, Cindy Rose, President of Microsoft Western Europe, said: "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. We are incredibly proud of the novel way this datacenter will sustainably power Finnish digital transformation, while also heating Finnish homes and businesses and helping cities achieve their emissions targets. In this unique collaboration, Microsoft and Fortum combine their world leading expertise in cloud computing and sustainable energy solutions, transforming the design thinking of datacenters of the future."

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