'Algae recycled into energy': How one of Europe's largest data center firms wants to harness heat from GPUs and others to grow sustainable marine flora — but will it be worth it?

Future biocircular data center
(Image credit: AI image from Data4)

Data centers produce a lot of waste heat that could one day be recycled and used to heat millions of homes.

Now, French data center company Data4 has partnered with the University of Paris-Saclay to launch a project that aims to use data center heat to grow algae, which can then be recycled into energy. The pilot project, set to commence early in 2024, will be trialed in the Paris region.

This initiative, led by a diverse team of experts from various fields, is driven by the French administration "Conseil Départemental de l'Essonne" and the Foundation Université Paris-Saclay. The project comes as a response to the escalating environmental impact of data centers, which have seen a 35% annual increase in data storage worldwide.

A more efficient alternative

Turning algae into heat

(Image credit: Data4)

The algae grown from the captured CO2 will be recycled into biomass to create new circular energy sources and will also be used in the production of bioproducts for other industries.

According to a feasibility study conducted with start-up Blue Planet Ecosystems, the carbon capture efficiency of this method can be 20 times greater than that of a tree.

Data4 says using the data center waste heat for the growth of algae is a more efficient alternative to the common practice of using it to warm nearby homes, which only utilizes 20% of the heat produced.

"This augmented biomass project meets two of the major challenges of our time: food security and the energy transition. This requires close collaboration between all the players in the Essonne region, including Data4, to develop a genuine industrial ecology project, aimed at pooling resources and reducing consumption in the region. Thanks to this partnership with the Fondation de l'Université Paris Saclay, we have the opportunity to draw on one of the world's most prestigious scientific communities to work towards a common goal of a circular energy economy," says Linda Lescuyer, Innovation Manager, Data4.

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Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams is a freelancer writing news for TechRadar Pro. He has been writing about computers, technology, and the web for 30 years. In that time he wrote for most of the UK’s PC magazines, and launched, edited and published a number of them too.