Earth Wind & Power (EW&P), the Norwegian company which plans to plant data centers at sites where energy would be wasted, has signed for several potential projects in Africa.
EW&P is involved in a feasibility study to put data centers on oil platforms, making use of gas that would otherwise be wasted in flares, but its approach could also help fund new solar plants by using energy generated at times of low demand, according to EW&P CEO Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde, who signed several letters of intent (LoIs) with national governments during African Energy Week in Cape Town, South Africa, this month.
"Data centers could pay for energy on sunny days when the town doesn't need all the electricity the solar farm is making," said Smines Tybring-Gjedde in an interview with DCD. "With wind production, we can buy energy at night when it is windy and people need less energy. We don’t want to cannibalize the energy given to the people around about. We take the excess." Projects like this can enable bigger solar projects because they provide needed investment in the early stages, she said.
African countries like Nigeria are also a major center for oil exploration where gas is routinely flared because it can't be economically exploited. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called for an end to gas flaring by 2030.
Using this waste energy in data centers could help build digital infrastructure in Africa, where there is a large shortage of data centers for local needs. Earlier this year, a report found that the continent needs 700 data centers totaling 1,000MW to meet local demand and bring the rest of the continent up to par with South Africa's density.
At the conference, Ms. Smines Tybring-Gjedde, a former deputy petroleum minister in the Norwegian government, gave a keynote speech, and said the LoIs signed could help African governments eliminate flare gas, and boost digital capacity: “I would like to thank the organizers for such a wonderful event, at what is still a challenging time," she said.