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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Sandra Laville

Energy from data centres could heat UK swimming pools after green investment

People swimming in an indoor pool.
Deep Green has already piloted using energy from computer data processing centres to heat swimming pools. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Up to 150 public swimming pools in the UK could be offered an innovative way to cut their energy bills by recycling heat from computer data processing centres after a £200m investment by Octopus Energy into a green tech firm.

The tech startup Deep Green has already piloted using energy from processing centres to heat swimming pools, with the concept trialled last year in Exmouth, Devon.

The new investment announced on Monday is likely to result in the energy solution expanded to leisure centres across the country over the next two years.

Mark Bjornsgaard, the chief executive of Deep Green, said the idea could go well beyond providing energy for swimming pools. “If just 1% of the data centre demand in the UK operated on our servers, we could deploy in every public pool in the country. The backing from Octopus is the first step,” he said.

“This is no longer just about pools, however. We have received interest from a wide range of other potential partners who could make use of our free heat, such as district heating networks.”

Processing data generates a lot of wasted heat, which Deep Green’s scheme aims to repurpose to provide free heat for energy-intensive organisations such as leisure centres, which have been affected by soaring bills in the cost of living crisis, with many having to close or cut hours.

Guardian research last year revealed England had lost almost 400 swimming pools since 2010, with parts of the country with the greatest health needs losing out the most.

In Exmouth, the swimming pool was able to slash its heating bill by more than 60%. In return, Deep Green gets free cooling which provides it with a significant competitive edge over traditional data centres.

Installed on-site, Deep Green data centres do not require additional grid upgrades or planning permission and can be up and running in a matter of weeks, the company says.

The technique works for the data centre and the pool – the heat from the computers warms the water and the transfer of heat into the pool cools the computers.

The new investment came via Octopus’s dedicated energy transition fund.

Zoisa North-Bond, the chief executive of Octopus Energy Generation, said: “To tackle the energy crisis head-on, we need innovative solutions to unusual problems. By using excess heat from data centres to slash energy bills for communities across the UK, Deep Green solves two problems with one solution. We’re looking forward to rapidly rolling this out and positively impacting even more people as we drive towards a cleaner, cheaper energy future.”

Bjornsgaard added: “Placing data centres within the fabric of society transforms the waste heat they produce into a valuable resource that benefits communities.

“The data centre sector is rightly facing scrutiny about its growing energy demand and associated carbon emissions. Our data centres are highly energy efficient and support local communities with free heat.”

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