One of the biggest challenges for tech startups in recent years has been finding intelligent solutions to the problem of climate change. Investing resources in the attempt to save energy is a mission for many, and it often takes the form of simple but world-changing ideas. This is definitely the case of Nerdalize, the Dutch startup that created a prototype radiator using the heat produced by computer servers.
We often forget about the existence of servers, but they are what make it possible for us to browse the internet. Most of them are contained in big data centers, which consume vast amounts of electricity, primarily to keep processors cool and prevent them from overheating. And as internet use increases, this consumption will steadily grow. Even without taking into consideration the cost of the spaces containing the data center and the energy resources required to keep it in operation and cool it down.
What better way to take advantage of this energy than to place the servers in private homes, so that the heat is not wasted but used to heat the houses?
A number of years ago the Aquasar project attempted to come up with a way of cutting energy wastage in data centers, imagining a new, more effective form of cooling employing water instead of fans, and re-using the water to heat buildings. Nerdalize, on the other hand, aims to use the heat from servers directly, incorporating them in a special heater to be distributed to private homes: an idea that solves two problems, server storage costs and energy consumption for heating homes. Nerdalize itself would pay the energy bills for hosting the servers.
The Dutch startup’s “E-Radiators” look just like regular wall-mounted radiators – hardly anyone would be capable of noticing the difference – and allow the people hosting them in their home to enjoy use of cloud space at a special cut rate about 55% below the average price.
At the moment the project is in the experimental stages in a number of private homes in the Netherlands – for the startup is based in Delft – in collaboration with Eneco, the Netherlands’ biggest electricity supplier.
On the occasion of the Venture Competition held by Climate KIC – a European initiative focusing on climate change – the idea won the trio of Dutch entrepreneurs the 40,000 euro first prize for Best European Cleantech Startup in 2015.
Their victory should come as no surprise, for the mechanism set up by Nerdalize seems perfect. After all, in the long term it would allow us to stop building expensive constructions just for hosting data centers, recovering energy that would otherwise be wasted, using it for a truly useful purpose which is – once again – capable of saving energy resources and money. Nerdalize would then sell its cloud space at a discounted price without producing any pollution: a virtuous circle created out of an idea that is as simple as it is ingenious!