Exploding energy costs are responsible for the closure of more than 60 public swimming pools in Britain in the past four years.
And with bills expected to rise by £100,000 this year for some, it has led leisure centers to look for ways to keep the facilities running.
Run an unusual solution: the data center the size of a washing machine.
It may sound far-fetched, but a leisure center in Devon uses computer power to heat its swimming pool.
The idea works by placing 12 computers in a white box that is then surrounded by oil to capture the waste heat they produce – in a similar way to another concept that uses computer servers to heat water in people’s homes.
Innovative: It may sound far-fetched, but Exmouth Leisure Center in Devon uses computer power to heat its swimming pool. A tiny computer server has been provided by the start-up Deep Green. The photo shows the CEO of the company, Mark Bjonsgaard
How it works: Several computers are placed in a white box which is then surrounded by oil to trap the waste heat they produce. The hot oil is in turn pumped into a heat exchanger to heat the water in the pool to about 30°C 60 percent of the time (photo)
The hot biodegradable mineral oil is in turn pumped into a heat exchanger to heat the water in the pool to about 30°C 60 percent of the time.
HOW DOES A COMPUTER SERVER HEAT A POOL?
1. A data center the size of a washing machine is installed free of charge at a recreation centre
2. It is powered by electricity paid for by the company that installs it, start-up Deep Green
3. The computers are immersed in a biodegradable mineral oil that traps the heat they produce
4. This heat is then transferred from the oil to the cold water of the pool via a heat exchanger
5. It means the pool is heated to about 86°F (30°C) 60 percent of the time
6. A gas boiler then tops up the water temperature where necessary
7. Deep Green makes money by charging customers for using computing power for AI and machine learning
It is estimated that this will save Exmouth Leisure Center up to £20,000 a year.
The small data center has been made available to the council-owned facility free of charge by start-up company Deep Green, which also covers the cost of the necessary electricity.
Deep Green makes its money by charging customers for using the computing power of the artificial intelligence and machine learning server.
The company’s founder, Mark Bjornsgaard, said seven more swimming pools in England had joined the scheme, but added that some 1,500 could also benefit.
‘Data centers have a huge heat problem’ he told the BBC.
“A lot of the money it costs to run a data center is spent on dissipating the heat.
“And what we’ve done is take a very small piece of a data center to where the heat is useful and needed.”
Sean Day, who runs the Exmouth Leisure Centre, said the partnership with Deep Green has helped cut costs during the ‘astronomical’ rise in gas prices over the past 12 months.
He revealed that he had expected the facility’s energy bill to rise by £100,000 this year.
Instead, Deep Green estimates its ‘digital boiler’ could help the leisure center save more than £20,000 a year and cut carbon emissions by 25.8 tonnes.
Energy costs for leisure centers have risen 150 percent since 2019, and an estimated 79 percent of facilities are said to be closing.
What it looks like: The idea works by placing 12 computers in a white box that is then surrounded by oil to trap the waste heat they produce (pictured)
a A BBC investigation last year found that swimmers in the UK lost access to more than 60 public swimming pools since 2019.
A lack of staff, rising energy costs and shortages of chemicals are believed to be responsible for creating a ‘perfect storm’ for centres.
Deep Green’s claims that 30 percent of industrial and commercial heat needs could be supplied by its technology.
The company’s cloud data centers can also be installed in bakeries, distilleries, laundries and apartment buildings.
Similar technology is being rolled out in homes across the country by a start-up that puts computer servers in people’s hot water tanks.
Smart: Another UK start-up called Heata has come up with the idea that Britons could soon save £150 a year on their energy bills by using computer servers to heat their water
Heata claims his shoebox-sized device could help Britons save around £150 a year on their energy bills, while also allowing small businesses to make use of the computing power available on the servers rather than having to spend time in a large data center.
If the computer heats up, the tank extracts waste heat and uses it to heat water for showers, baths and washing up.
Each unit can provide up to 4.8 kWh of hot water per day, the company says – about 80 per cent of the hot water needed in an average UK household.
The electricity used by the unit is metered and homeowners are credited for the amount used at 10 percent above the market rate, the company said.
Heata says an electrician can install his appliance in less than two hours using a ‘British Gas approved process with no plumbing required’.
HOW BRITISH CAN LOWER THEIR ENERGY FACTION BY ATTACHING A SERVER TO THEIR WATER TANK
Computer servers in major data centers across the UK require massive cooling systems to prevent overheating.
The problem here is that about 45 percent of the energy consumption in these centers goes to cooling.
The British start-up Heata has therefore come up with a new solution to not have to have these cooling systems, but to use the waste heat that computers produce.
Heata claims his shoebox-sized device could help Britons save around £150 a year on their energy bills, while also allowing small businesses to make use of the computing power available on the servers rather than having to spend time in a large data center
It offers to install processes in people’s homes by attaching them to their water tanks. The tanks then absorb this waste heat and use it to heat water for showers and washing up.
It costs a homeowner nothing because Heata covers the cost of the electricity the servers need.
The company makes its money by essentially renting these computer servers to companies based in the UK, such as architectural firms that need to do computationally intensive rendering.
Heata insists that the data be protected. However, currently a homeowner’s broadband must be used to run the servers, but the company is in talks with ISPs to find a solution for this so that it doesn’t use up a person’s monthly data bundle.