A data center the size of a washing machine is being used to heat a public swimming pool in England.
Data center servers generate heat as they operate, and interest is growing in finding ways to harness it to reduce energy costs and offset carbon emissions.
In this latest example, the computer technology has been placed inside a white box and surrounded by oil, which captures heat before pumping it into a heat exchanger, according to a BBC report.
The setup is effective enough to heat a council-run swimming pool in Exmouth, about 150 miles west of London, to about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) for about 60% of the time, saving the operator thousands of Dollars. And with energy costs rising sharply in the UK and councils looking for ways to save money, an initiative like this could mean the difference between the pool staying open or closing.
Behind the idea is the British tech startup Deep Green. In exchange for hosting their kit, Deep Green installs free digital boilers in the pools and pays for the energy they use. Meanwhile, tech companies pay Deep Green to use their computing power in various AI and machine learning projects.
The success of the initiative has led other pools in England to sign up to the service.
taking advantage of the heat
Data centers are used to store and handle vast amounts of data, and each server within those centers generates heat doing so. But instead of using electricity to keep servers cool, several companies, including Deep Green, are capturing that heat and channeling it to other uses, with the goal of reducing both costs and carbon emissions.
But it’s not just startups that are exploring such initiatives. For example, Facebook, now Meta, is recycling the heat from at least one of its data centers, using it to heat thousands of homes in a community in Odense, Denmark.
Meta’s system circulates water throughout the data center through insulated steel pipes that pass through copper coils inside the cooling units. The water collects heat at a low temperature before flowing to a facility where heat pumps heat it further. Once it’s hot enough, it’s funneled into homes.
Meanwhile, companies like Nvidia are looking for other ways to manage the heat generated by data centers. The chip giant recently implemented a liquid cooling system that reduces power consumption by 30% and rack space by 66% compared to traditional air cooling methods.