De Reus van Schimmert : from a water tower to a green data center

K. Tzanakakis

Research output: ThesisEngD Thesis

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The water tower of Schimmert is an iconic tower that has served the local community for decades. In 2014 it was decommissioned and currently local companies and authorities are searching for a viable business model for this imposing tower.
The present report examines the feasibility of transforming the water tower into a data center that reuses its waste heat to provide sustainable heat to local residential and commercial consumers. The reservoir of the tower will be used for storage of the excess heat, in order to balance the mismatch between supply and demand.

Data centers are the enablers of today’s digital society because they form the backbone of the internet infrastructure. As the demand of digital services increases, the energy demand and the corresponding environmental impact of the data center market intensifies. In addition to that, the servers housed in a data center generate heat during their operation and heat disposal is important in order to ensure a safe and reliable operation of the IT equipment. Although typically the waste heat is dissipated to the environment, there are ways of reusing it in order to improve the overall efficiency and provide a secondary source of income for the data center business. The proposed district heating system is one of these ways.

The tower can be retrofitted into a data center of 450kW. The data center with a design PUE of 1.3 can be divided into 5 vertical compartments that will be built gradually as the IT load grows. In order to ensure uninterruptible operation, the proposed equipment resilience level is N+1 for all the systems, except for the power of the IT equipment where a 2N resilience is considered.

The cooling method used for the servers has a significant impact on the quality of the waste heat and consequently on the ease of capturing it and reusing it. Although state of the art systems that use liquid or two-phase cooling show great potential, in this design air-cooled servers are proposed because of maintenance, reliability and flexibility reasons. To achieve the highest possible quality of the extracted heat a hot aisle containment is also suggested.

The captured waste heat is enough to heat 65 houses in the vicinity of the tower in the village of Schimmert. The connection of the houses may take place in two phases, firstly the planned neighborhood of Bekerhof can connect to the heating grid and secondly houses that lay along the main piping system.

Because the profiles of heat production of the data center and the heat demand of the heat clients are not balanced during operation, the reservoir of the water tower can be used as a heat storage system by storing any excess heat and covering any heat shortage. Water will be used as a storage medium since latent and thermochemical heat storage are still under development and have not been tested extensively in field applications.

In addition to the technical investigation, this report provides an analysis of business opportunities for de Reus van Schimmert. There are a number of advantages for the selection of this tower for the proposed design, namely its location and the services already in place as well as the possible tax benefits and the durable design of the tower itself. The proposed company will be a cooperation between different stakeholders, a data center operator and a district heating operator.

De Reus van Schimmert can be once again a lighting beacon of the area, this time because of its sustainable paradigm. It can showcase that although data centers demand massive amounts of electricity and as a consequence are responsible for CO2 emissions, they can put this energy in good use by providing sustainable heating to the local area.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Gibescu, M., Supervisor
  • Nijssen, Ed J., Supervisor
  • Eurelings, N., External supervisor, External person
Award date21 Feb 2017
Place of PublicationEindhoven
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

PDEng thesis.


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