When the warmth of computers benefits bathers: At a leisure center in Exmouth, in the south-west of England, the swimming pool is a small data center thanks to an innovation that lowers its energy bill.
An installation recovers the heat generated by a row of computers and makes it possible to heat water to a temperature of 29°C 65%, thus reducing the need for gas boilers.
Deep Green, the British company leading the project, does not charge for heat and covers its own electricity costs, but charges customers for the use of its computers used in fields such as machine learning or artificial intelligence.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” says company CEO Mark Jornsgaard. “Our computers cool for free, which is as good as we are doing by providing this heat to the swimming pool,” he told AFP at an Exmouth leisure centre.
He lifts the lid of a dishwasher-sized white box to reveal computer boards bathed in heat-regenerating mineral oil. The oil then heats the water through an exchanger.
“Traditional data centers dissipate this heat. They use enormous amounts of water to dissipate the heat through evaporation,” he explains, adding that 99% of this heat is lost to the atmosphere.
According to the entrepreneur, half of the cost of running a data center is spent on cooling the computers.
“We don’t have those costs. And from an environmental point of view, it is a very good thing,” he boasted.
According to Peter Gilpin, CEO of leisure center operator LED Community Leisure, the deployment of the technology comes at the right time after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which led to a spike in electricity prices.
Those costs typically account for about one-third of a recreation center’s total operating costs. The swimming pool’s annual gas bill nearly tripled to £80,000 (93,000 euros) before the data center was installed in March.
“We’ve been hit hard by rising gas prices over the winter, but next winter, we expect a much larger portion of our heating costs to come from using this technology,” declared Peter Gilpin.
While it’s still too early to judge long-term results, he’s already noticed a “reduction in (their) gas consumption” and “significant savings” even in the face of lower fuel prices these past months.
“Not only does it reduce our energy costs and our gas consumption, which is a fundamental virtue, but we reduce our carbon footprint,” he said.
Leisure center teams are now looking to install the technology in two more swimming pools they manage.
But they may have competition.
According to the company’s CEO, “demand has exploded”, with thousands of potential sites wanting to use their technology across Europe, especially swimming pools and heating installations.
At the same time, more companies are looking to use deep green computers because they are “greener” and “much cheaper” than their regular vendors, Bjornsgaard said. “But we have a social purpose, don’t we?”