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Politicians in the Nordics are grinning in agreement when giants like Facebook and Google convert old paper mills and other aging blue chip infrastructure into high density data centers. Electricity supply is not a problem and cooling is usually available from a nearby river or sea.

Sounds great? Well. While the EU has banned 100W+ incandescent light bulbs and is making a lot of noise about energy efficiency, it seems perfectly okay to dump some 50MW of thermal energy into the nature. Facebook was even joking about ‘warming the local climate by a couple of degrees’. Yes, the argument is that nuclear plants have been doing this for tens of years, but shouldn’t we somehow improve efficiency? Also, servers are not known to leak lethal doses of radiation to the cooling liquid.

50 megawatts is 50 megawatts, regardless of the production method. I’d say that instead of just joking about it these companies and governments should seriously explore options to deliver this extra energy to nearby district heating networks and other industries capable of using it. (I was delighted to find a ecosystem from Uusikaupunki, Finland, where a biogas reactor is being built next to a fish cultivation plant and a greenhouse. Loop fully closed. (See more from Sybimar)

When the financial crisis generates all kinds of tax ideas, why don’t we start taxing blatant energy waste by megawatts? I’d find it a lot more reasonable and measurable than the financial transaction tax (Tobin) or saturated fat tax à la Denmark.


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