Home Computing Waste heat from supercomputer to heat Scottish homes

Waste heat from supercomputer to heat Scottish homes

Professor Chris McDermott, lead academic on the Edinburgh Geobattery project (photo credit Neil Hanna)

In what is been hailed a first-of-its-kind, the UK’s University of Edinburgh is trialling heating homes with waste heat from its large computing facility.

University of Edinburgh’s Advanced Computing Facility houses a national supercomputer that currently releases up to 70GWh of excess heat per year.

According to the University, this will increase to 272GWh once the UK Government’s recently announced next-generation Exascale supercomputer is installed.

The £2.6 million feasibility study, called the Edinburgh Geobattery project, thus aims to examine how this excess heat from the supercomputer, together with water in old mine workings near the computing facility could be harnessed to heat up to 5000 people’s homes in Edinburgh.

A heating blueprint

“The study will test the process of transferring the captured heat into the mine water – up to a maximum temperature of 40°C – which would then be transported by natural groundwater flow in the mine workings, and made available to warm people’s homes via heat pump technology,” explains a University statement.

If the study is a success, it could provide a blueprint for converting abandoned flooded mine networks into underground heat storage.

The University of Edinburgh’s Advanced Computing Facility (photo credit Keith Hunter)

According to Professor Christopher McDermott, lead academic on the Edinburgh Geobattery project, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh: “This project opens up the potential for extracting heat stored in mine water more broadly. Most disused coalmines are flooded with water, making them ideal heat sources for heat pumps. With more than 800,000 households in Scotland in fuel poverty, bringing energy costs down in a sustainable way is critical, and using waste heat could be a game-changer.”

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The Edinburgh Geobattery project is led by Edinburgh-based geothermal company TownRock Energy.

Project partners include the University College Dublin and the University of Strathclyde. The University of Edinburgh is the lead research partner on the project and is providing £500,000 in funding.

Scottish Enterprise has awarded a £1 million grant to the project through a joint call launched by the Horizon 2020-funded Smart Energy Systems (JPP SES) and Geothermica.

A further $1 million from the US Department of Energy will fund researchers from the Idaho National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

 

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