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Good News: Data centre recycles heat at a local swimming pool

BY Miriam Sallon

23rd Mar 2023 Good News

Good News: Data centre recycles heat at a local swimming pool

A Data centre is using waste energy to heat a leisure swimming pool in Exmouth 

With energy bills rocketing, and global temperatures teetering, Deep Green, a small data centre startup, and Exmouth Leisure Centre have found a way to help each other. 

The problem 


The data centre market is forecast to triple in the next decade

The internet and computer systems are now entirely integral to the running of most businesses, and with that comes an ever-expanding need for data centres. "Data is critical to modern society and demand for data centres is growing exponentially,” says Mark Bjornsgaard, CEO of Deep Green.  

The problem lies in how much waste energy a data centre will amass. Running 24/7, the servers necessarily create a huge amount of heat. Where a small data centre will generate up to 50 MW of heat, enough to power 100,000 homes, a “campus” might generate up to 300 MW, enough to power over half a million homes. 

"A small data centre will generate up to 50 MW of heat, enough to power 100,000 homes"

In order to keep temperatures down, data centres have to use an intensive air conditioning system. In 2022, the data centre industry accounted for around 4 per cent of global electricity consumption and 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The data centre market is forecast to triple in the next ten years. That’s a lot of energy! 

Rising costs 


Running a swimming pool has become near impossible with rising energy costs

Since the start of the pandemic, energy costs for a leisure swimming pool have reportedly tripled, leaving many centres with no choice but to close, according to Swim England. They claim that by March 2024, 40 per cent of council areas could risk losing their swimming pools if nothing changes. 

"By March 2024, 40 per cent of council areas could risk losing their swimming pools"

Similarly, data centres have had to raise their fees in order to cover the extra cost of cooling their equipment, making it impossible to offer a competitive rate. 

The solution 


The Exmouth Leisure Centre will save around £20,000 a year

Where most normal data centres waste the heat that the computers generate, Deep Green has found a solution to benefit everybody. They have built a small data centre in Exmouth Leisure centre, allowing the heat from the servers to heat the swimming pool. 

This solution is free of charge, and Exmouth Leisure Centre is expecting to save around £20,000 a year. Because the data centres run 24 hours a day and are necessarily built with backup power systems, they make for excellent and consistent heat output. 

The future 


Many data companies have started to look at more energy efficient solutions

Deep Green is already in discussion with Greenwich Leisure Limited who run seven swimming pools across London, as well as the Commons Project Foundation who hope to install a data centre to warm 70 London flats. 

“As the world moves, we need ten times the amount of computers and we cannot build ten times the amount of data centres,” Bjornsgaard said, “so there is a need to decentralise them and take little bits of them to where the heat is required.” 

"Our “digital boilers” put waste heat to good use, saving local businesses thousands of pounds on energy bills and reducing their carbon footprint"

Where a “campus” might take up millions of square footage, Deep Green’s solution allows data centres to be built in and amongst urban infrastructure. This means that there’s nothing stopping data centres from heating up an entire city. Say goodbye to massive energy bills and putting on a third jumper, and say hello to free heating! 

"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. 

Deep Green isn’t the only company to come up with a neat solution to using waste-heat. In Paris, the Condorcet data centre is heating an onsite Climate Change Arboretum that studies which plants are most adaptable to global warming. Similarly, the Notre Dame Centre for Research Computing heats a local municipal greenhouse.  

Amazon Web Services has also announced plans to recycle its heat in Dublin, heating over 50,000 square metres of public sector buildings, commercial spaces and residential flats. So as Bjornsgaard says, this is just the start.  

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