There’s good reason why data centers are one of the fastest growing users of energy in the world: from cloud services to IoT, data centers are doing exponentially more every day. We’re tackling the challenge from a number of angles. Most recently, we partnered with Climeon, whose breakthrough heat-to-power technology will produce 100% green power for the data center, from a readily available source – low-grade waste heat.

Aligned is a sustainable technology company with a mission to innovate and optimize infrastructure within data centers and buildings to eliminate waste of materials, energy and water to create a better tomorrow. Through Aligned Data Centers, that technology is deployed to transform the data center colocation business model delivering it as a utility to cloud, enterprise and telecommunications companies to allow infrastructure costs to dynamically align with their IT load and business needs.

Heat is a byproduct of energy production and industrial processes. 50% of the world’s energy is in the form of or produces waste heat, which gets dumped either into our waterways or into the atmosphere. What if, instead of dumping that heat, you could turn it back into power? That would be an entirely new source of clean energy.

That’s exactly the result of a four-year collaboration between Aligned and the Swedish-based clean energy company Climeon. Together, the two innovators in sustainable technology have developed a fully integrated green platform that will be able to power Aligned Data Centers around the world with 100% clean electricity.

The benefits of this new technology accrue to both the environment and the business. According to a report by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of Energy, the U.S. wastes more than half of the total energy we produce – mostly as heat, but also as gas, biomass, and methane. Using that waste could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent. “It’s free energy, essentially,” says Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED at the U.S. Green Building Council.

For our customers, this represents a powerful new opportunity to achieve sustainability goals. The technology is not deployed in our data centers yet, but when it is rolled out next year customers will have the option of getting 100% clean power from the industrial providers we’ve partnered with to generate energy off the grid from waste heat and supply it to our data center.

A new era of innovation for the data center – and beyond

“We have entered a new era of innovation in how we power and cool data centers, one of the fastest-growing users of energy and water in today’s digital economy,” says our founder and CEO Jakob Carnemark. “In most cases if you want to use clean electricity, converting solar and wind power are the typical methods; however, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. By cultivating this largely untapped resource in waste heat and converting it to 100% stable green baseload power, and by being able to use low temperature geothermal sources, we can support the data center industry’s rising demand for green energy in ways not previously possible through this new, highly sustainable and reliable approach.”

There are a number of use cases for the new approach. In one, Aligned will work with the local utility to develop a Climeon system that is then used to deliver 100% dedicated green energy to clients at Aligned Data Centers. We are currently in deep discussions with utilities in the markets where we operate in to offset our IT load within our data centers with this product. This is not something that would require subsidies, just good partnerships.

In another use case, Aligned will leverage Climeon technology to build an integrated data center and geothermal power system to deliver 100% green energy and 100% uptime to the data center. In yet another, Aligned will leverage Climeon technology to structure an eco-energy system to deliver 100% green energy to the data center at or below the local utility rate. In addition, Aligned will work with local utilities and large industrial users to tap into their waste heat source and produce clean energy to further reduce thermal pollution caused by the release of waste heat.

Making the best use of low temperature waste heat

Waste heat recovery is not a new concept, but to date it typically has not been economical to recover waste energy. Temperature is a key factor in determining the feasibility of waste heat recovery, and waste heat has lower utility than the original energy source.

But Climeon overcame the technological issues to efficiently convert low-grade waste heat, which is typically between 120ºF and 160ºF, into useful energy. The result – the groundbreaking Heat Power technology – performs at twice the efficiency as the best organic Rankine cycles and performs efficiently even with heat sources at significantly lower temperatures than other waste heat-to-power systems.

Bottom line

Soon, Aligned Data Centers’ customers will have the option of powering their data center with 100% clean energy converted from waste heat – a readily available, reusable source. They’ll be consuming less energy and emitting less CO2. That’s what we call a win-win.