A U.K.-based startup firm is heating swimming pools with its data center.
The startup company is called Deep Green, and it is currently using the heat generated by its server rigs to heat the water in Exmouth Leisure Centre’s 82-foot-long public swimming pool.
It’s a win-win for both the operators of the swimming pool and the data center.
It turns out that the world’s data centers — the physical locations that house the IT infrastructure for building, running, and delivering digital applications and services — generate a lot of heat and have a surprising environmental impact. These data centers, which store all of the information we access from our smartphones, computers, and TV’s, require a large amount of electricity to keep the servers running, as well as to keep them cool enough to prevent them from overheating.
Traditionally, data centers are cooled through an intensive air conditioning system.
A lot of the money that it costs to run a data center is spent on getting rid of the heat that they generate, which is substantial, and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), data centers and data transmission networks each account for up to 1.5 percent of global electricity use. They are collectively responsible for around 1 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.
This is on par with aviation and shipping, which are responsible for 1.7 percent and 1.9 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s why Deep Green’s cooling solution is so, well, cool. Instead of relying entirely on electricity to cool their server rigs, their internal components are submerged in mineral oil, which absorbs the heat. A heat exchanger transfers that heat to a swimming pool full of cold water, which cools the components. The system is able to convert about 96 percent of the electricity it uses into heat for the pool.
It’s a big deal for British swimming pools, which, since the pandemic, have been closing at a significant rate due to rising energy costs. The BBC reported that 65 swimming pools have closed since 2019 in large part due to the increases in the price of energy, which has reportedly tripled.
With this new collaboration — five years in the making — pools can be heated to about 86 degrees, about 60 percent of the time. That means that a gas boiler is still necessary as a supplement, but the savings is still huge.
Sean Day, who runs Exmouth Leisure Centre, said he had been expecting the facility’s energy bills to rise by what amounts to more than $81,000 this year.
'The partnership has really helped us reduce the costs of what has been astronomical over the last 12 months — our energy prices and gas prices have gone through the roof,' he said.
With this affiliation, pool heating costs can be lowered by about $24,000 per year, and annual CO2 emissions by almost 26 tons, according to Deep Green.
Mark Bjornsgaard, founder of Deep Green, said that the data center was built underneath the Exmouth Leisure Centre, and the digital boiler costs the pool nothing to operate. Deep Green manages and maintains its server rigs and reimburses the aquatic facility for the cost of the electricity needed to run the server. So the heat produced to heat the pool is basically free.
“Most normal data centers waste the heat that the computers generate. We capture ours, and we give it for free to the swimming pool to heat the pool,” Bjornsgaard said.
Deep Green is already developing plans with Greenwich Leisure Limited, which runs seven swimming pools across London, as well as the Commons Project Foundation, which hopes to install a data center to warm 70 London apartments.
'Our “digital boilers” put waste heat to good use, saving local businesses thousands of pounds on energy bills and reducing their carbon footprint. Pools are just the start,” Bjornsgaard said.