Data centre used to heat 25-metre swimming pool at Devon leisure centre

Deep Green CEO Mark Bjonsgaard at Exmouth Leisure Centre, whose pool is heated by his company (Deep Green)
Deep Green CEO Mark Bjonsgaard at Exmouth Leisure Centre, whose pool is heated by his company (Deep Green)

Exmouth Leisure Centre’s 25-metre swimming pool is now heated by an on-site data centre run by Deep Green, cutting at least £1,000 a month off its energy bills.

Seven swimming pools are on the list to work with Deep Green, and it suggests these “digital furnaces” could also be used in distilleries, bakeries, laundrettes and blocks of flats.

The leisure centre effectively gets free heating in exchange for providing a place to house Deep Green’s data centre equipment, which is roughly the size of a home kitchen appliance — 0.7 metre x 1 metre x 0.6 metre. The brains of the data centre are submerged in mineral oil, which captures the heat from the processors and minimises the amount lost to the air. This heat is then transferred to the swimming pool through a heat exchanger.

Exmouth Leisure Centre has seen a 62% drop in the amount of gas needed to heat the pool, cutting its bills by £20,000 a year.

“Deep Green’s innovative technology will dramatically reduce our energy bills and carbon footprint, meaning we will continue to be a key asset for the local community. We are already seeing the benefit.  I’m certain this will transform leisure centres up and down the country for the better,” said Peter Gilpin, CEO of LED Community Leisure, which runs Exmouth Leisure Centre.

Deep Green’s data centres offer computing and storage for companies that need to, for example, use machine learning and AI in the cloud. It has responsibility for the maintenance of the hardware and pays in advance for the energy costs of running it.

The use of data centres tied to swimming pools may just be the start of new ways to harness what would typically be considered waste heat.

“By moving data centres from industrial warehouses into the hearts of communities, our ‘digital boilers’ put waste heat to good use, saving local businesses thousands of pounds on energy bills and reducing their carbon footprint. Pools are just the start and around 30% of all industrial and commercial heat needs could be provided by this technology,” says Deep Green CEO Mark Bjornsgaard.

Deep Green is in discussions with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), a charitable social enterprise, about installing a unit at Charlton Lido in London, with a view to a possible much wider roll-out across GLL swimming pool sites across the country. It also in the process of a partnership with property development company Common Projects to provide hot water to approximately 70 flats in London, using a single installation.

This idea of harnessing waste heat has already been explored on a much larger scale by Amazon’s AWS. Heat from the AWS data centre just outside Dublin is piped into the city, and will eventually heat over 50,000 square metres of buildings, and up to 135 apartments.

However, Deep Green’s approach could be more useful in built-up areas like central  London, where data centres are constrained. London’s largest data centre is Virtus’s Stockley Park Campus, near Hayes. It commands hundreds of thousands of square feet, while central London’s Docklands Data Centre has 23,000 sq ft of space to house computer equipment.