Jeroen Burks, CEO of Blockheating
“There is this perfect overlap between ITRenew and Blockheating. ITRenew gives servers a second life, and we’re giving the energy from those servers a second life.”
Challenging the Status Quo
As a young boy, Jeroen Burks wondered why so much of the heat from the fireplace in his home appeared to escape right out the chimney. He was on to something. Traditional wood-burning fireplaces are surprisingly inefficient. Only about 20% of the heat they generate reaches our homes. The rest quite literally goes up in smoke.
Couldn’t that waste heat somehow be preserved or repurposed? he asked himself.
When Burks founded Blockheating in the Netherlands in 2018, he took that same notion and applied it to server infrastructure. He had seen that the datacenters that power cloud platforms generate massive amounts of heat that has to be dissipated to keep the equipment cool.
That heat dissipation typically takes the form of air conditioning, which can account for as much as one-third of an operator’s energy bill. This is one reason why the IT sector as a whole is expected to account for 20% of global electricity consumption by 2025. And it contributes to the environmental and grid management concerns that are causing cities around the world to slow or even halt the construction of new data centers.
With his focus on efficient infrastructure at the edge, Burks came up with the inspired idea to create a green data center alternative—one that would repurpose the heat that’s traditionally defined as ‘waste’ and direct it toward applications where heat is desirable, such as in sustainable agriculture.
In the Netherlands, for instance, there are roughly 3,700 hectares of greenhouses that require heating year-round. A heat recycling process would enable Blockheating to minimize the ecological footprint of its data centers while providing practical benefits to industries outside of IT.
“For me, sustainability isn’t simply just recycling. It means looking at the whole chain, something bigger than your usual frame of reference. So we’re not just looking at how can we recycle the heat. We’re also looking at how we can cool servers efficiently. And, luckily for us, those two are really well connected.”