Installing a mini data center could become a more sustainable way to heat public swimming pools in the UK. One data center, which is roughly the size of a laundry machine, has already been installed underneath a swimming pool in Devon County. Seven more similar setups are in the works across the UK, BBC News reports.
It’s a practical partnership that helps the pools and data centers solve expensive technical problems. Since most of the electricity computers consume is eventually released as heat, data centers need to cool down their hardware. Public pools need to heat themselves up but face skyrocketing energy costs that have pushed many pools in the UK to close.
“We see that supply and demand as two sides of the same coin.”
“We see that supply and demand as two sides of the same coin,” Mark Bjornsgaard, CEO of Deep Green, the tech firm that’s providing pools with data centers, told the BBC.
According to Bjornsgaard, 97 percent of the electricity that computers gobble up is ultimately spit back out as heat. That’s how data centers have become notorious for burning through huge amounts of energy and water used for cooling. In an effort to use fewer resources, companies like Microsoft have tried submerging their servers underwater and dunking them in liquid baths.
Deep Green’s strategy is to immerse its hardware in mineral oil within that laundry machine-sized box. The oil captures heat from the computers, and that heat is then diverted to the pool above. This setup can heat the pool in Devon to 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) about 60 percent of the time.
Deep Green’s computers suspended above mineral oil. Image: Deep Green
That way, the pool doesn’t need to rely as much as it typically does on a gas boiler. The data center cuts the pool’s gas consumption by 62 percent, according to Deep Green. That’s also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with gas by close to 26 metric tons a year.
There are significant cost cuts, too. The Exmouth Leisure Centre in Devon that houses one of Deep Green’s tiny data centers had expected its energy costs to balloon by £100,000 (roughly $120,000) this year, according to the BBC. The data center should help shave around £20,000 (about $24,000) off of that bill.
Deep Green says it takes care of the costs of the equipment, installation, maintenance, and electricity its technology uses. Instead, it makes money from clients paying to use the computing power of its servers for machine learning and AI, according to the BBC. And by diverting its waste heat to pools, the tech firm also saves money it would have otherwise spent on more expensive cooling systems.