Geothermal for Data Centers

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

Geothermal for data centers involves utilizing geothermal energy to provide cooling for data center facilities. This technology offers a sustainable and energy-efficient alternative to conventional cooling systems that rely on electricity generated from fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and operational costs.

Impact on climate action

Geothermal for Data Centers under the Geothermal Energy theme revolutionizes climate action by providing reliable, sustainable energy for data center operations. By tapping into Earth’s heat, this innovation reduces reliance on fossil fuels, cuts emissions, and promotes energy efficiency, contributing to a greener, low-carbon digital infrastructure.

Underlying
Technology

  • Geothermal Energy Source: Geothermal energy can be sourced from various types of geothermal resources, including hydrothermal reservoirs, EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems), and shallow geothermal energy.
  • Heat Exchangers: Heat exchangers transfer heat from the data center equipment to the geothermal fluid, which is then circulated underground to dissipate the heat.
  • Direct Use or Absorption Chillers: Geothermal energy can be used directly for cooling data centers through direct heat exchange with the geothermal fluid or by powering absorption chillers, which use heat to drive a refrigeration cycle.
  • System Design and Optimization: Geothermal cooling systems for data centers require careful design and optimization to ensure efficient heat transfer and maintain optimal operating temperatures for data center equipment.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Geothermal Technologies: Innovations in geothermal technologies, such as EGS and closed-loop geothermal systems, are expanding the potential for geothermal energy utilization in data center cooling applications.
  • Direct Geoexchange Systems: These systems utilize direct exchange of heat between the ground and the data center cooling system, eliminating the need for a heat pump and further improving efficiency.
  • Hybrid Geothermal Cooling Systems: Combining geothermal cooling with other cooling technologies, such as free cooling or evaporative cooling, can provide a more flexible and efficient cooling solution for data centers.
  • AI-Powered Cooling Optimization: AI and machine learning can be used to optimize the operation of geothermal cooling systems, adjusting parameters based on data center load and environmental conditions to minimize energy consumption.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Efficiency Optimization in Geothermal Data Center Cooling
  • Hybrid Cooling Systems Using Geothermal
  • Advanced Geothermal Cooling Systems
  • Direct Geoexchange Applications
  • AI-Optimized Geothermal Cooling
  • Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)
  • Closed-Loop Geothermal Systems
  • Geothermal Absorption Chillers
  • Geothermal Heat Exchanger Design
  • Ground-Source Heat Pump Integration
  • Geothermal for Hyperscale Data Centers
  • Immersion Cooling with Geothermal
  • Geothermal District Cooling Networks
  • Underground Thermal Energy Storage (UTES)
  • Geothermal Resource Assessment
  • Low-Temperature Geothermal Fluids
  • Eco-Industrial Parks with Geothermal
  • Geothermal-Driven Smart Grids
  • Renewable Energy Integration in Data Centers

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Fervo Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Fervo Energy focuses on developing advanced geothermal energy solutions for power generation, including applications for data centers. Their technology involves utilizing deep geothermal resources to generate clean, reliable, and cost-effective electricity. By harnessing the heat from the Earth’s core, Fervo Energy aims to provide sustainable energy solutions for various industries, including data centers.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Fervo Energy stands out for its innovative approach to geothermal energy production, leveraging advanced drilling techniques, reservoir modeling, and data analytics to optimize resource utilization and minimize environmental impact. Their focus on providing renewable energy solutions tailored to the needs of data centers highlights their commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Fervo Energy serves data center operators and owners seeking renewable energy sources to power their facilities. By offering geothermal solutions specifically designed for data center applications, Fervo Energy addresses the growing demand for clean and reliable energy in the digital infrastructure sector.
  2. Green Revolution Cooling (GRC):
    • Technology Enhancement: Green Revolution Cooling specializes in innovative cooling solutions for data centers, including geothermal cooling systems. Their technology involves using the natural cooling properties of the Earth to dissipate heat from data center equipment, reducing energy consumption and environmental impact. By integrating geothermal cooling with their immersion cooling technology, GRC offers energy-efficient and sustainable solutions for data center cooling.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: GRC stands out for its expertise in immersion cooling and its integration with geothermal energy systems to provide holistic cooling solutions for data centers. Their innovative approach to data center cooling not only improves energy efficiency and reduces operational costs but also minimizes water usage and environmental footprint.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: GRC serves data center operators and owners looking to optimize cooling efficiency and reduce environmental impact. Their geothermal cooling solutions are ideal for hyperscale data centers, colocation facilities, and high-performance computing environments seeking sustainable and cost-effective cooling alternatives.
  3. Schneider Electric:
    • Technology Enhancement: Schneider Electric is a global leader in energy management and automation solutions, offering a range of products and services for data centers, including geothermal solutions. Their offerings include integrated systems for power distribution, cooling, and energy management, with options for incorporating renewable energy sources such as geothermal power.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: While not a startup, Schneider Electric stands out for its extensive experience and comprehensive portfolio of solutions for data center infrastructure. By integrating geothermal energy with their energy management systems, Schneider Electric helps data center operators optimize energy efficiency, reduce carbon footprint, and enhance sustainability.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Schneider Electric serves data center operators and owners worldwide, offering tailored solutions to meet the specific needs of different industries and applications. Their geothermal offerings provide an alternative energy source for data centers seeking to achieve sustainability goals and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL conducts pioneering research on integrating geothermal energy with data center operations, aiming to harness the Earth’s heat for cooling and heating requirements of data centers.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves developing innovative geothermal heat exchange systems and ground-source heat pump technologies tailored for the specific needs of data center cooling. They also explore hybrid energy systems that combine geothermal with other renewable energy sources to ensure reliability and resilience of data center operations.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in improving the energy efficiency and sustainability of data centers, reducing their carbon footprint and operational costs. By leveraging geothermal energy, NREL’s research enables data centers to achieve long-term energy independence, mitigate environmental impacts, and contribute to the transition to a low-carbon energy future.
  2. Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts cutting-edge research on integrating geothermal energy with data center cooling systems, leveraging its expertise in geosciences, engineering, and sustainable energy technologies.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of advanced geothermal heat exchangers, underground thermal energy storage (UTES) systems, and geofluid circulation models optimized for data center applications. They also explore novel drilling techniques, reservoir engineering methods, and thermal management strategies to maximize the efficiency and reliability of geothermal-based data center cooling.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in large-scale data center facilities, cloud computing infrastructure, and high-performance computing clusters. By leveraging geothermal resources, Stanford’s research enables data centers to achieve higher levels of energy efficiency, reduce water consumption, and enhance overall environmental sustainability.
  3. University of Iceland:
    • Research Focus: The University of Iceland is a global leader in geothermal research and innovation, with extensive expertise in geothermal resource assessment, exploration, and utilization for various applications, including data center cooling.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves leveraging Iceland’s abundant geothermal resources and geothermal district heating infrastructure to provide sustainable cooling solutions for data centers. They also explore the use of low-temperature geothermal fluids, geothermal brines, and geothermal heat pumps for efficiently cooling data center facilities while minimizing environmental impacts.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in developing geothermal-based data center campuses, eco-industrial parks, and renewable energy-driven smart cities. By harnessing geothermal energy for data center cooling, the University of Iceland’s research contributes to Iceland’s renewable energy transition, economic development, and global leadership in sustainable energy technologies.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Several data centers around the world are already utilizing geothermal energy for cooling, demonstrating the feasibility and potential of this technology. For example, the Verne Global data center in Iceland uses geothermal energy for cooling, taking advantage of the country’s abundant geothermal resources.