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The startup is tackling the energy crisis by using data centers to heat swimming pools and more

pool view from the bottom
Image Credit: Clark Tai // Unsplash

According to London-based tech disruptor Deep Green, it is the only company in the world that recaptures the heat your computer generates and repurposes it for social good. And the company does it all for free.

With a £200 million ($253.81 million) investment from renewable energy company, Octopus Energy, the company is aiming to cut the energy bills of up to 150 public swimming pools in the United Kingdom through its innovative heating scheme. In return, Deep Green gets free cooling for its processes, which gives it an edge over other data center companies.

Piloted last year in Exmouth, Devon, the idea started when Mark Bjornsgaard, the chief executive of Deep Green, put a small computer data processing center underneath a pool and allowed the energy from it to heat the water. 

As access to public pools steadily decreases, with budget cuts here in the United States, and in the UK as the government struggles with crippling energy bills, Bjornsgaard’s solution took off in 20 pools because it's capable of solving multiple problems at once: pool recreation access and skyrocketing energy bills, while facilitating transition to clean energy. 

As Zoisa North-Bond, the CEO of Octopus Energy Generation put it, “To tackle the energy crisis head-on, we need innovative solutions to unusual problems.” 

“By using excess heat from data centers to slash energy bills for communities across the UK, Deep Green solves two problems with one solution,” she said in a statement, “We’re looking forward to rapidly rolling this out and positively impacting even more people as we drive towards a cleaner, cheaper energy future.”

The investment was made via Octopus’ dedicated Octopus Energy Transition Fund (OETF) — which launched last year to scale companies in fast-growing sectors decarbonizing society — and the Sky (ORI SCSp) fund it manages.

To say data centers release a lot of emissions is an understatement. They account for nearly 1% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and as the International Energy Agency explains, since 2010, the number of internet users worldwide has more than doubled, with global internet traffic expanding 25-fold. 

“As the world moves, we need 10 times the amount of computers and we cannot build 10 times the amount of data centers,” Bjornsgaard said when the program was piloted last year. “So there is a need to decentralize them and take little bits of them to where the heat is required.”

According to Deep Green — whose customers include companies that do everything from AI, and machine learning to video rendering or cloud applications — one reason data centers are so energy intensive is to keep the computers cool. Therefore putting the heat to use, which much of the power goes towards, is one of the most effective ways to divert emissions. 

Finding a use for its waste heat can help increase the efficiency of these systems while reducing the energy needed for applications Deep Green uses the heat for. This, in a grand scheme, lowers emissions from our energy mix by displacing the source needed to heat a pool or other sites that require hot water like apartment complexes. 

Not to mention, that doesn’t even begin to factor in 1) the economic benefits of the program, like the fact that Deep Green can reduce pools’ energy bills by 60%, or 2) the incentive the strategy gives companies to incorporate ESG (environmental, social, corporate governance) considerations. 

“The data center sector is rightly facing scrutiny about its growing energy demand and associated carbon emissions,” Bjornsgaard said in a statement. “Placing data centers within the fabric of society transforms the waste heat they produce into a valuable resource that benefits communities.”

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