£36m award will use waste heat from data centres to heat homes in London

The Mayor of London’s development corporation, OPDC has been awarded £36 million from the government’s Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF) to harness waste heat from the cooling of several data centres.

The innovative project is the first of its kind to secure GHNF support and will provide low carbon heating captured from data centres into buildings. It forms part of a wider £65m award from the GHNF to five projects across the UK.

The network is located in the largest adopted Opportunity Area in London spanning three London Boroughs. Old Oak West, OPDC’s planned new development area, around the future Old Oak Common Station, will deliver over 9,000 homes and 250,000m2 of commercial development.

It is one of the UK’s largest and most important urban brownfield regeneration projects which includes the Old Oak HS2 and Elizabeth Line interchange. The development will have excellent connectivity for the thousands of new and affordable homes in the area and the new district heating network is key to achieving a zero carbon and sustainable new urban district.

The funding award of £36 million will support the commercialisation and construction of the district heat network. This substantial scheme is expected to deliver 95GWh of heat across 5 phases between 2026 and 2040. The Old Oak development will create 22,000 new jobs.

The Mayor of London’s Local Energy Accelerator (LEA) funding programme, which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, has also provided almost £400,000 to fund technical expertise to develop the OPDC-led heat network. The LEA, which funds the development of clean, locally generated energy projects, including heat networks, has just been extended to March 2024 with £3 million additional funding provide by the Mayor of London.

Data centres offer a predictable supply of low grade heat (between 20oC and 35oC) which is often wasted with many centre operators running inefficient plants to reject this heat into the atmosphere. As a result of this scheme, the wasted heat will instead be distributed to a number of energy centres via a plastic “ambient” network, where it will supply heat pumps that then raise the temperature to Low Temperature Hot Water “LTHW”. This will then be piped via a traditional steel network to a mixture of new and existing residential buildings.

David Lunts, OPDC Chief Executive, commented: “Recycling the huge amounts of wasted heat from our local data centres into heat and energy for local residents, a major hospital and other users is an exciting and innovative example of OPDC’s support for the Mayor’s net zero ambitions.”

“We are excited to be leading the way in developing low carbon infrastructure, supporting current and future generations of Londoners in Old Oak and Park Royal to live more sustainably.”

Jo Streeten, Managing Director, Buildings + Places – Europe and India, AECOM, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the new communities emerging within the OPDC area to lead the way in how our cities can operate more sustainably, by using the waste heat sourced from data centres.”

“An enormous amount of stakeholder collaboration and technical expertise has gone into getting us to this point, but we now have a blueprint for an innovative ambient heat network which we hope will provide a template for future developments.”

Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, said: “The Mayor has an ambitious target for London to become a net zero city by 2030 and is supporting the creation of the OPDC heat network with funding from the Mayor of London’s Local Energy Accelerator (LEA), which will help us to continue building a better, greener London for everyone.”