Public pools facing closure due to rising energy bills have been offered a lifeline in the form of new technology to heat the water.
Mark Bjornsgaard, chief executive of tech startup Deep Green, tested the idea in Exmouth, Devon. He has put a small data-processing computer center under the pool, and the power it generates heats the water.
The idea has taken off and up to 20 public pools could be upgraded to the heating system this year.
“We built a small data center in the Exmouth Leisure Centre. Most normal data centers waste the heat that the computers generate. We catch our own and give it to the pool for free to heat the pool,” Bjornsgaard told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The technique works for the data center and the pool: heat from the computers heats the water, and heat transfer to the pool cools the computers.
“It’s great for them: they can reduce the cost of heating the pool and reduce the amount of carbon they use, and it’s good for us because we can offer cheaper IT services because we don’t have the costs of cooling,” Bjornsgaard said.
The idea was part of a shift in the data center industry, he said. For 30 years there have been huge buildings, often in the middle of nowhere, with millions of computers in them generating huge amounts of heat.
“As the world moves, we need 10 times more computers and we can’t build 10 times more data centers,” he said. “Therefore, it is necessary to decentralize them and bring small fragments to where the heat is required.”
Sean Day, the director of Exmouth’s leisure centre, said his energy bill was expected to rise by £100,000 this year.
“The partnership has really helped us bring costs down in what has been astronomical in the last 12 months – our energy prices and gas prices have skyrocketed,” he told the BBC. “It’s been amazing to see different ways we can save money as an organization.”
Jane Nickerson, the outgoing chief executive of Swim England, said other pools had flooded her asking to be included in the project.
“Mark had a target of seven groups this year and upgraded it to 20. This could be a game changer, an absolute game changer for us,” he said.
The attempt to ease energy bills comes as public pools across the country are closing. The Guardian investigation revealed that England had lost almost 400 swimming pools since 2010, with the parts of the country with the greatest health needs losing the most.
Swim England said there was an urgent need to invest in the country’s swimming pools.