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Accepted Paper:

From Industrial Excess to Infrastructural Convergence: District Heating and Facebook's Data Storage  
Caroline Anna Salling (Technical University of Denmark)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores 'industrial excess' through the convergence of two infrastructures: a district heating network and a Facebook datacenter. It points to how the use of server hot air to phase out of coal as fuel in a Danish city positions datacenters as industrial solution in the Anthropocene.

Paper long abstract:

In the city of Odense, Denmark, a hyperscale data center is converged with the local heating infrastructure that supports all kinds of buildings with hot water flowing into radiators and floors. The servers operating in the datacenter get hot while storing and processing messages, posts and images, and this hot air, also referred to as excess heat, is through pipes transported into the facilities of the publicly owned heating infrastructure. The server hot air is by the heating engineers turned to as a substitute to the coal that for a century has been a key fuel within the energy plant that supplies the heating network.

This paper draws on fieldwork with the heating engineers planning for and building the pipes, calculations and measurements to make the convergence work. It pays particular attention to the ways in which excess heat is engineered as usable waste from various industries, including Facebook. The convergence with the datacenter and its servers is used as a tool in meeting pollution targets that is motivated through Danish energy policy.

Industrial excess heat has been used for district heating for decades but one of the emerging changes for these infrastructures is how Big Tech corporations are trying to make their material excess useful. This is a moment of the datacenter industry shifting from not only being (extreme) energy consumers but also encroaching on public energy infrastructures in order to count as environmental solutions.

Panel P48a
Informated Environments
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 June, 2022, -