EUI6: Sustainable Data Centre Thermal Management

Over the past decade, the electricity demand of data centres has increased substantially, by about 11% per year worldwide. In Ireland in 2016, the electricity consumption of data centres was 7.8% of national demand, with this figure expected to rise to 15-20% in the next decade. According to a recent survey by Uptime Institute, the average data centre infrastructure efficiency (DCIE) remains at 58%, meaning that 42% of all incoming power is spent on power conversion and cooling the equipment. Our long-term goal is to examine and develop methods to lower the energy footprint of these systems and promote a closer integration into the energy system.

The increasing presence of data centres has fostered discussion on the additional role they could play in the broader energy ecosystem. Technically, it is possible that data centres could be used as part of a district heating system (reusing captured waste heat) or support a load-balancing capacity:

  1. Although not yet commonplace in Ireland, district heating has been used more extensively in mainland Europe. Studies in the UK has shown potential in temperate climates, albeit more likely in the form of small-scale campus heating. For data centres, co-location with clients with a high constant heating demand (such as hospitals) would help to reduce the client heating demand at campus-scale.
  2. Data centres could act as a load-balancing element on the electricity grid by switching data centre operations rapidly to another transnational location to manage demand. This might yield benefits such as reduced wind curtailment and lower net electricity prices for data centre operators.

This work package aims to develop a greater understanding of the drivers of energy consumption in data centres through research into advanced cooling technologies. It also plans to investigate the technical and economic feasibility for recuperating waste heat in data centres for district heating and improved demand-side flexibility.


Please see our recently published working paper "An Economic Evaluation of Future Electricity Use in Irish Data Centres". This paper is part of our ongoing research into the Irish data centre market. If you wish to discuss it further, you are welcome to contact the authors.

Additional Resources:

  1. You can find out more about this project by visiting
  2. Eirgrid 2017-2026 Generation Capacity Statement

Figure 1: An external view of a hyperscale Facebook data centre in Prineville, Oregon (USA) that relies on the use of free-air cooling (Source: MIT Technology Review)


Research Outputs

Conference  Hybrid-Cooled Data Center Server Layout Optimization for Air-Side Heat Recovery
2018; 24th International Workshop on Thermal Investigations of ICs and Systems (THERMINIC), Stockholm, Sweden, September 26-28, 2018, Sweden; Sakanova, A., Sajad, M., McEvoy, J. and Persoons, T.
Conference  Experimental investigation of flow pulsation waveforms in rectangular mesochannels for high heat flux electronics cooling
2018; 5th International Conference on Experimental Fluid Mechanics (ICEFM), Munich, Germany, July 2-4, 2018, Germany; McEvoy, J., Sajad, A. and Persoons, T.
Conference  An Analysis of Emerging Trends and Constraints in the Irish DataCentre Market
2017; DataCentres Ireland Conference 2017, Ireland; Coyne, B., McEvoy, J., Denny, E. and Persoons, T.
Conference  The future of data centre cooling, energy consumption and climate change
2017; 15th IAEE European Conference 2017 ('HEADING TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SYSTEMS: EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION?'), Austria; Coyne, B. and Denny, E.
Conference  Aqueous ammonium thiosulfate as a working fluid for refractive index matched PIV applications
2017; Ex-HFT 9 (9th World Conference on Experimental Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics) , Brazil; McEvoy, J. and Persoons, T.


Dr Eleanor Denny
Funded Investigator, Associate Professor of Economics, Trinity College Dublin
01 896 1069
Dr Tim Persoons
Funded Investigator, Ussher Assistant Professor, Dept. of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering, Trinity College Dublin
01 896 1936
Assel Sakanova
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Sara Battaglioli
Postdoctoral Researcher
Bryan Coyne
PhD Researcher
Jaakko McEvoy
PhD Researcher