Outside, the temperature is a bone-chilling minus 14C and Helsinki is struggling with its iciest winter since 1982, but deep inside a former bomb shelter carved from the bedrock beneath an Orthodox cathedral, the city's power company is building what will soon be the world's most high-tech municipal heating system.
Here, surplus heat from hundreds of computer servers in a new data centre located beneath Uspenski Cathedral, one of the city's main tourist attractions, will be captured and pumped to heat hundreds of homes and businesses across the Finnish capital.
"This will be the greenest and most energy-efficient data centre in the world," Juha Sipila, the project manager for Helsingin Energia, the company behind the scheme, said.
A Finnish IT company called Academica is building the data center in coordination with the Sipila's company, which is the Helsinki utility that's delivering the centrally generated heat and hot water to residents. And while the first stage of the plan is expected to supply the heat for 1,000 Helsinki apartments, Academica has much bigger plans for the sub-cathedral, former-bomb-shelter data center, according to the article:
The Academica server centre due to enter service in April is a pilot and will supply enough hot water to heat 1,000 flats. Mr Roto has plans for a much bigger scheme including 2,000 square metres of server racks.
He believes that Nordic countries may have stumbled across a lucrative new business opportunity to tap into the growing £7 billion global server market. A similar project is underway in Iceland (Iceland NATO Facility Becomes Cool Data Center), which will use geothermal energy to power servers and cold seawater for cooling. Google has also announced plans recently to site a giant server centre in Finland.
The data-center boom has clearly become a worldwide phenomenon and we recently described some of the more-unconventional approaches being taken in a column called Global CIO: Data Centers Behaving Boldly: Meet Tech's New Rock Stars.