Microsoft has announced a major new data center in Finland. As welcome as that news alone might be, with the expected 11,000 new jobs, the project will also provide district heating for a large swathe of southern Finland. Finnish broadcaster and news provider YLE highlights that Microsoft's collaboration with energy company Fortum will also create the "world's largest waste heat recovery project for data centers."
Finland's biggest energy company, the majority-state-owned Fortum, has been looking for a data center partner for the last four years. In choosing a partner, Fortum didn't just consider the core computing functionality of a very large data center to accelerate Finland's digital transformation. The chosen partner needed to "be ready to implement climate-friendly solutions on an unprecedented scale," explained Fortum President and CEO, Markus Rauramo. Fortum has now agreed to partner with Microsoft and the pair's impressive plans have been revealed.
On the scale of the investment in this new data center, LYE reports that it is "one of the biggest single ICT investments in Finnish history." Microsoft reckons that the new infrastructure, its upkeep and services will sustain 11,000 new local jobs. Moreover, such a large project usually has a positive effect on local businesses. At the very least 11,000 people, many with high skilled roles and a commensurate salary, will be very happy to have nearby food outlets, goods and services.
It is estimated that Microsoft and its ecosystem in Finland will also stimulate the local economy, generating more than 17.2 billion Euros over the next four years.
Lastly, considering the core server business activity of Microsoft in southern Finland, locals will benefit from the fastest loading and latency times when using Microsoft's popular cloud services (and perhaps great PC and Xbox cloud gaming too).
Waste Heat Isn't Wasted in Finland
Circling back to our headlining topic - the substantial new Microsoft data center is going to generate a lot of waste heat, such is the nature of high performance computing in 2022. Microsoft and Fortum will power the new data center using emission free electricity, and better than that, waste heat is going to be directed to warm the homes of hundreds of thousands of local residents.
LYE reports that the data center will contribute to the heating across a large part of southern Finland, specifically district heating users in Espoo, Kauniainen and Kirkkonummi. Checking the size of this region, it is approximately a 30 minute drive from one side to the other, so covers a substantial area.
Figures shared by Fortum indicate that the waste heat from the Microsoft servers will cover 40% of the heating needs of 250,000 customers in the region. Later on, when the Microsoft data center is fully commissioned, and other heated local wastewater joins the energy recycling scheme, it is estimated that waste heating output will cover 60% of the heating needs in the area.
Microsoft and Fortum's collaboration will result in the reduction of about 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions per annum.