British startup Deep Green has set its sights on accelerating the roll-out of datacentre heat reuse schemes across the country, following the deployment of its first heat recapture setup at a leisure centre in Exmouth, Devon.
The company specialises in the provision of mini-datacentres, dubbed “digital boilers”, which comprise servers whose waste heat is transformed into hot water that can be used by local businesses.
Exmouth Leisure Centre is now home to the first digital boiler deployment, with the company claiming the setup will reduce the site’s gas requirements by 62%, cut its carbon emissions by 25.8 tonnes and save the owners more than £20,000 a year in energy costs.
The Exmouth setup consists of 12 servers running a mix of energy-intensive artificial intelligence, machine learning and video rendering workloads, and the heat from these is captured using immersion-cooling technology and transferred to the site’s existing hot water system for free.
The cost savings side of the equation could be a compelling draw for other leisure centre operators, the company said, given that many of them have seen their energy costs soar by 150% since 2019 and around 79% are facing closure as a result.
The company said it plans to follow up the Exmouth deployment with similar projects in Bristol and Manchester in the coming weeks.
The technology also has the potential to be used by other types of businesses that have consistent heat needs, such as bakeries, distilleries and blocks of flats. “Beyond pools, 30% of industrial and commercial heat needs could be provided by this technology,” the company said, in a statement.
Mark Bjornsgaard, CEO of Deep Green, said that with so many businesses having to grapple with rising energy costs, its technology could make a huge difference to society.
“Current datacentre infrastructure is inefficient, using a huge amount of energy and generating a vast amount of waste heat,” he said. “Yet, at the same time, there are many businesses that need heat and face increasing energy bills.
“By moving datacentres 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.
“Organisations that are serious about supporting society and reducing their carbon emissions should not forget the massive impact of their computing needs,” said Bjornsgaard. “Deep Green now provides an answer.”
Jane Nickerson, CEO of Swim England, said it is heartening to see places like Exmouth embracing innovation to see it through the energy-pricing crisis.
“At a time when so many swimming pools are struggling with massively increased energy bills, it’s great to see pools embracing innovative solutions like this, which have the potential to support facilities to operate more sustainably, both environmentally and economically,” she added.
The concept of reusing waste datacentre heat is not new, but it’s an idea that has struggled to gain traction in the past because the amount of warm air these facilities generate is vastly difficult to transport long distances.
The approach Deep Green is taking, where the datacentres are co-located with the recipients of this heat, is one way round this difficulty, and an idea that others have adopted, too.
For instance, Computer Weekly has previously reported on some datacentre builds in the Nordics whose waste heat is being directly pumped into neighbouring fish and lobster farms so the ambient temperatures these creatures need to thrive are consistently maintained.
On this point, colocation giant Equinix has recently embarked on a similar build-out at one of its datacentre sites in Paris, whereby its waste heat is being used to power a rooftop urban farm.
This project, overseen by Reid Brewin Architects (RBA), is billed as a first-of-its-kind build in France, and consists of a 430-metre-squared, climate-controlled greenhouse that’s being used to grow seasonal fruit and vegetables on top of the datacentre facility.
“It is of increasing importance that we increase our actions and mitigate the environmental impact of an increasingly digital world,” said John Hutchinson, director at RBA. “Sustainability and safeguarding the environment are at the heart of everything we do, and this opportunity has already inspired further initiatives across our client base.”