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How data centers at public pools can keep swimmers warm

Installing a mini data center could become a more sustainable way to heat public swimming pools in the UK. A data center about the size of a washing machine has already been installed under a swimming pool in Devon County. Seven more similar setups are in the works in the UK, BBC news reports.

It is a practical collaboration that helps the pools and data centers solve expensive technical problems. Since most of the electricity used by computers is eventually released as heat, data centers need to cool down their hardware. Public swimming pools have to heat themselves up, but face sky-high energy costs has led to many swimming pools in the UK closing.

“We see supply and demand as two sides of the same coin.”

“We see supply and demand as two sides of the same coin,” said Mark Bjornsgaard, CEO of Deep Green, the technology company that provides pools of data centers, told the BBC.

Deep Green’s strategy is to submerge its hardware in mineral oil in that box the size of a washing machine. The oil captures the heat from the computers and that heat is then conducted 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 hang over mineral oil.
Image: deep green

That way, the pool doesn’t have to rely as much as it usually does on a gas boiler. The data center reduces the pool’s gas consumption by 62 percent, according to Deep Green. That is also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with gas by nearly 26 tons per year.

There are also significant cost savings. The Exmouth Leisure Center in Devon, which houses one of Deep Green’s small data centres, had expected energy costs to rise by £100,000 (around $120,000) this year, according to the BBC. The data center should shave about £20,000 (about $24,000) off that bill.

Deep Green says it will cover the costs of the equipment, installation, maintenance and electricity. Instead, according to the BBC, it makes money from customers who pay to use its servers’ computing power for machine learning and AI. And by diverting its waste heat to swimming pools, the tech company also saves money it would otherwise have spent on more expensive cooling systems.

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