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Tiny data center makes for a comfortable swim

A data center about the size of a washing machine is being used to heat a public swimming pool in England.

Data centers’ servers generate heat as they operate, and interest is growing in finding ways to harness it to cut energy costs and offset carbon emissions.

In this latest example, the computing technology has been placed inside a white box and surrounded by oil, which captures the heat before being pumped 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 U.K., and councils looking for ways to save money, an initiative like this could be the difference between the pool staying open and closing down.

Behind the idea is U.K.-based tech startup Deep Green. In exchange for hosting its kit, Deep Green installs free digital boilers at pools and pays for the energy that they use. Meanwhile, tech firms pay Deep Green to use its computing power for various artificial intelligence and machine learning projects.

The success of the initiative has prompted other swimming pools across England to sign up for the service.

Harnessing the heat

Data centers are used to store and handle vast amounts of data, and each server inside those centers generates heat while doing so. But instead of using electricity to keep the servers cool, a number of firms, Deep Green among them, are capturing that heat and channeling it for other uses, with the aim 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 around the data center via insulated steel pipes that run through copper coils inside cooling units. The water picks up low-temperature heat before flowing onto a facility where heat pumps warm it further. Once hot enough, it’s then channeled to the homes.

Meanwhile, firms like Nvidia are looking at others ways of handling the heat created 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.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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