These scientists are heating with the power of their servers

Heating with computer heat

Christof Fetzer (l.) And Jens Struckmeier are colleagues at the TU Dresden.

(Photo: AP)

DresdenActually, Christof Fetzer, professor of computer science at the TU Dresden, wanted to build just a house, as sustainable as possible. His friend Jens Struckmeier, a physicist, helped him with the planning. At the same time Fetzer had a professional concern: For new servers at his institute lacked the space – especially for cooling.

The researchers wondered: Could one not use the waste heat of the devices for heating for Fetzers house? Theoretically, that was possible. But how should you transport the energy so far? Then they came up with the idea: they would not set up the servers in the university, but in the cellar of the professor – and send the data via fiber-optic cable to the institute.

They built a prototype. Instead of using air as usual, they cooled the servers with water, which could then be used for heating. When they saw that it worked, they founded Cloud & Heat. They wanted to equip residential buildings with their servers and rent them as cloud storage, that's the idea.

Digitization is producing more and more data. According to calculations by the Berlin Borderstep Institute, the energy requirements of data centers and telecommunication networks in Germany will rise to 25 terawatt hours by 2025. With the networking of machines and household appliances also increase the need for decentralized storage, says Jens Struck Meier: "If you distribute large amounts of data, you get faster answers than if the data must first be sent to the US."

Nevertheless, it was initially difficult to find money for the project. "Capital is missing for technical innovations in Germany," says Struckmeier. Investors are often not willing to take risks, government funding too bureaucratic.

Although the founders managed to convince first investors such as John Jahr, grandson of the publisher of the same name. They raised more than one million euros in a crowdfunding campaign. But the sales did not develop as expected. A second campaign failed. At times, the local energy provider threatened to turn off the power – a memory that still makes Struckmeier shudder. After all, they were responsible – for employees, families and retail investors.

Under CEO Nicolas Röhrs Cloud & Heat has modified the business model and today offers its solutions for large partners such as Innogy on. "Data center capacity will become a commodity, like heat and electricity," Röhrs believes. Last year, Cloud & Heat completed a financing of more than ten million euros. The investors include the EnBWSubsidiary VNG, the London fund ETF Partners and Inven Capital, subsidiary of the Czech energy supplier CEZ.

Founder Struckmeier continues as CTO on board. From the private project has become a big vision for him: "By 2030 could heat 40 percent of all buildings with server heat."

More: Cloud & Heat was recently named the most innovative of the 50 fastest-growing European startups.

Handelsblatt Future Mittelstand Newsletter

(t) Energy (t) Energy (t) Heat (t) IT (t) Physics (t) Server (t) Startup (t) Energy Saving (t) Innovation (t) Building Services (t) EnBW (t) Technical University of Dresden (t) CEZ AS (t) Gas interconnected network (t) Innogy


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