Norwegian architecture firm Snohetta and real estate developer MIRIS have unveiled designs for ‘The Spark,’ an urban data center that reuses excess heat to power cities. Framed as a “solution to the global climate crisis,” the prototype is designed to power cities with up to 18,000 people. The city of Os, located south of Norway’s second largest city, Bergen, will be the first municipality to test the concept as part of a plan to become the world’s first-ever energy positive city.
Created in collaboration with Skanska, Asplan Viak and Nokia, The Spark was born from a study that examined the energy footprint of data centers and how they could be redesigned for energy efficiency. According to their research, they found that 40 percent of the total energy consumption in the world could be attributed to buildings, while data centers alone account for approximately two percent of total energy consumption. As digitalization continues to rise, so will demand for more data centers.
Although data centers have traditionally been located in remote locations, The Spark would be placed in the middle of a city so that recaptured excess heat could be used to power nearby buildings, which would also be solar-powered to feed energy back to the center and thus slash overall energy consumption by up to 40 percent. “We have developed a cyclical energy concept,” explains Elin Vatn of Snøhetta. “By cyclical, we mean that the heat generated from the data center is looped through the city before it is brought back to the center. This system allows us to heat the buildings in the city, but also to cool down the center towards the end of the cycle. This way we can maximize the utilization from beginning to end.”
The Spark will be tested in a pilot project in Lyseparken, Os as part of a sustainable business park that will generate at least 4,000 new jobs with thousands of households in the surrounding area. If the pilot is successful, Lyseparken is expected to be the first-ever energy-positive city in the world. The Spark data center would be constructed following the Powerhouse standard—a set of guidelines for plus-energy buildings—and include low-embodied materials like wood instead of concrete.