The rising energy prices in the UK have affected not just households but also businesses. Data centres, for example, require a lot of energy to keep their computers cool. The cost of running air conditioning for these can be astronomical.
Similarly, public swimming pools require energy to keep the water warm enough to swim in. Maintaining a steady 30 degrees C means an energy bill can cost thousands. And, with the anticipated increase in heating costs, leisure centres are expecting to pay £100,000 more this year.
However, someone noticed the opposing requirements of these two entities and figured why not get them to help each other out.
But, why do data centres need help?
One can see how the heating cost is a factor for public pools. In fact, BBC News reported that 65 pools have closed down since 2019, with rising costs being listed as a significant factor. But data centres?
The Problem Data Centres Face
Cloud computing and digital transformation have meant that the need for data centres has grown exponentially. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon Web Services need more data centres in the UK.
However, they face the likelihood of being hit with sustainability-related regulations to keep them out of certain parts of London. Some of these regulations might limit the amount of power they consume and mandate how they reuse heat.
These regulations will mean data centres might have to either scale back their expansion plans or look into newer ways of energy efficiency and heat capture.
Swimming Pools to the Rescue
The founder of tech startup, Deep Green, Mark Bjornsgaard, came up with the idea of using small data centres as “digital boilers” for swimming pools. He provided a small, washing-machine-sized data centre to the Exmouth Leisure Centre.
The “digital boiler” is made up of computers housed inside a white box, which is surrounded by oil. The oil absorbs the heat generated by the servers and then it’s pumped into the heat exchanger, where the absorbed heat is transferred to the water.
The cooled oil is sent back into the boiler to continue the heat transfer process.
This system has provided around 60% of the heating required for the pool. And, it’s been so successful that up to 20 public pools might adopt this heating system this year.
The best part is, this system is free for the pools. As mentioned above, data centres need to demonstrate sustainability, whilst also keeping servers cool. The data centre installed in the Exmouth Leisure Centre pool has been provided free of charge.
What’s more, Bjornsgaard also refunded them the electricity cost of running the server.
Is This the Heating Solution of the Future?
As the need for more data centres grows, there is a possibility that, at some point in the future, people could house (pun intended!) data centres in their homes as “digital boilers”. However, for now, people still need to rely on traditional boilers to heat their homes.
Of course, as heating costs rise, regular maintenance and repair of boilers (by reliable service providers, like Mulgas Boiler Care Specialists) will help keep homes energy efficient for now.
In the future, however, it is entirely possible that when boilers act up, homeowners might need to call a server repair technician.