The University of Oldenburg in Germany is reusing the waste heat from its data center for its faculty buildings and university swimming pool.

The move is part of a project dubbed WärmewendeNordwest (Heat Transition Northwest), which is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

University of Oldenburg
The University of Oldenburg – University of Oldenburg

Several cooling and heating systems are currently being deployed at the university which are hoped to reduce energy costs and CO2 emissions.

The first such measure is a heat recovery system for the University's high-performance computing (HPC) cluster that was installed in 2023.

“The servers of the cluster are cooled using water because modern processors have such an enormous power density,” said Meik Möllers, the university's head of facilities management. The water leaves the HPC cluster at around 113°F (45°C) which is then heated to 167 °F (75 °C) and then fed into the university's heating network.

The heated water then supplements the Haarentor campus including buildings A1 to A15, the library, canteens, and the sports complex.

“Because the heat from the data center is available all year round, it can also be used to heat the university swimming pool, for example,” said Möllers.

It is estimated that the system will supply around 500,000 kWh of heat per year, translating to a reduction of at least 100 tons of CO2.

The servers in the data center that aren't used for HPC are air-cooled using a highly efficient compression refrigeration system which means the facility already fulfills the German Energy Efficiency Act requirements. This act came into force at the end of 2023 and sets energy efficiency standards for data centers that go into operation from 2026 onward, including making heat reuse mandatory.

In total, the university invested €2.5 million ($2.72m) into upgrading the heating and cooling systems, with an additional €300,000 ($326,000) in project funds.

Beyond the currently installed systems, the university will also modernize its ventilation system to include heat recovery, and will place an absorption chiller at the heat and power plant of its Wechloy campus.

Data center operator Equinix has recently announced that it is launching a district heating program and looking for partners - including planning agencies, energy utilities, and heat network operators globally to join.

Other companies involved in heat recovery programs include atNorth, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Green Mountain, Amazon,, VodafoneZiggo, Penta Infra, nLighten, Digital Realty, Stack, and Elisa.

Similar to the University of Oldenburg's plans to heat its swimming pool, two bathhouses in New York heat spa pools with waste heat from Bitcoin mining rigs, while UK startup Deep Green is planning on rolling out dozens of Edge pods to swimming pools across the country.