Public swimming pools threatened with closure due to soaring energy bills have been offered a lifeline with new technology to heat water.
Mark Bjornsgaard, the managing director of tech startup Deep Green, tested the idea in Exmouth, Devon. He installed a small computer center under the swimming pool and the energy it releases heats the water.
The idea has taken off and up to 20 public pools could be upgraded to the heating system this year.
“We have built a small data center in the Exmouth Leisure Centre. Most normal data centers waste heat generated by computers. We capture ours 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 swimming pool – the heat from the computers warms the water and the heat transfer in the swimming 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 good for us because we can offer cheaper IT services because we don’t have the costs 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 generating an enormous amount of heat.
“As the world moves, we need 10 times more computers and we can’t build 10 times more data centers,” he said. “There is therefore a need to decentralize them and bring small pieces of them to where the heat is needed.”
Sean Day, the manager of Exmouth Leisure Centre, said his energy bill is set to rise by £100,000 this year.
“The partnership has really helped us cut costs from what has been astronomical over the past 12 months – our energy prices and gas prices have skyrocketed,” he told the BBC. “Considering different ways to save money as an organization has been great.”
Jane Nickerson, the outgoing chief executive of Swim England, said she had been inundated with other pools asking to be included in the project.
“Mark had a target of seven pools this year and he’s increased it to 20. It could be a game-changer, an absolute game-changer for us,” she said.
The attempt to ease energy bills comes as the country’s public swimming pools are closing. Search for Guardians Revealed England had lost nearly 400 swimming pools since 2010the regions of the country with the greatest health needs being the losers.
Swim England said there was an urgent need to invest in the country’s swimming pools.