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How to control the emissions of energy-hungry data centres?

A zero-emission data centre laboratory WSTAR is being built in Vaasa. The University of Vaasa, Åbo Akademi and Novia University of Applied Sciences and Vaasa University of Applied Sciences have received almost 1.9 million euros in funding from the Academy of Finland for new infrastructure.

Data centre services will be increasingly needed in the future. However, the problem is their energy consumption and the resulting emissions. If no measures are taken, it is estimated that the energy consumption of data centres will rise to 20 percent of the global electricity consumption in the next decade. The new WSTAR or Wasa zero-emission data centre research infrastructure can help improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

– The purpose of the WSTAR infrastructure is to study how flexible low-emission data centres can be built, integrated and used while pursuing zero emissions, says Petri Välisuo, the leader of the WSTAR project, Associate Professor at the University of Vaasa.

Finland and the Nordic countries have become attractive areas for data centres in recent years. In addition to low-carbon electricity, the advantage of the Nordic countries is that waste heat can be used for most of the year.

– The data centre business is constantly evolving. There has not been an up-to-date national infrastructure in Finland that could provide benchmarks and guidelines for implementing low-emission data centres until implemented in this project, says Välisuo.

WSTAR is a data centre full of sensors

WSTAR will be located in the joint Technobothnia research centre of the University of Vaasa, Novia and Vaasa University of Applied Sciences. Initially, a data centre with an electrical power of approximately 50 kilowatts will be built in Technobotnia, some of the servers will be air-cooled and some will be liquid-cooled. The cooling arrangement is optimised so that waste heat can be utilised to the maximum.

– The seasonal storage of heat and the use of geothermal cooling in the data centre are going to be tested by using heat pumps. There will also be a flexible electricity distribution system and battery storage that can be used to test the centre’s operation in the energy market, for example by utilising demand flexibility, says Senior University Lecturer Jerker Björkqvist from Åbo Akademi. – Flexibility is essential when more variable wind power is used in energy production.

Sensors are installed in the data centre, and a digital model of the centre, or a digital twin, will be implemented so that the centre’s energy consumption and performance can be precisely monitored in real time.


WSTAR helps the region’s energy industry and smart specialisation

WSTAR will be a multidisciplinary entity that combines information, telecommunications and energy technologies. The new data centre infrastructure will benefit the region’s energy industry and small businesses.

– Vaasa is an essential concentration of the energy industry, which produces the technology needed in data centres. With the help of the new infrastructure, the industry in the region can also develop solutions for the needs of future low-carbon data centres, says Novia’s Research, Development and Innovation Manager John Dahlbacka. – For example, data centre electrical equipment, heat transfer and recovery solutions, and in the future, battery technology.

– WSTAR will support the intelligent specialisation of the Vaasa region through research and teaching and offers a suitable platform for small companies to develop innovations for energy-efficient computing, says Ghodrat Moghadampour, Principal Lecturer of the Vaasa University of Applied Sciences.


The university partners in the project are ABB, Danfoss Drives, Granlund, Fimpec, Hitachi Energy, Vaasa electricity, Wapice, Wärtsilä, RISE ICE (Sweden), CSC, Tietoevry, The Center of Sustainable Technology at the University of Hull (Great Britain), Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands) and Data Center Alliance (UK).


Further information

Project leader Petri Välisuo, Associate Professor, University of Vaasa, Digital Economy research platform
tel. 029 449 8330

Jerker Björkqvist, Senior University Lecturer, Åbo Akademi
tel. 050 4096335

John Dahlbacka, Research, Development and Innovation Manager at Novia University of Applied Sciences
tel. 044 780 5730

Ghodrat Moghadampour, Principal Lecturer, Vaasa University of Applied Sciences VAMK, ghodrat.moghadampour@vamk.fi
tel. 020 766 3569