Data centres can keep leisure centres afloat, saving authorities thousands

By rethinking the role of unused space around public swimming pools, councils can make a significant reduction to outgoings, and make sure valued services can continue to operate. 

Exmouth Leisure Centre in Devon is now using a computer data centre, roughly the size of an average domestic washing machine, to keep its swimming pool heated. Hardware inside the box is surrounded by oil, which helps capture what would be waste energy in the form of heat, helping the water maintain a temperature of around 30C some 60% of the time. 

blue swimming pool with water

Installed by Deep Green, a technology company serving the artificial intelligence and machine learning sectors, managers at the leisure centre pay nothing to host the equipment, which is now saving thousands from heating bills at the community facility. More so, the firm will also pay a refund for electricity costs associated with running its computers. A further seven English swimming pools have now signed up to the scheme. 

Sean Day, who runs the Exmouth Leisure Centre, had previously expected a rise in energy costs of around £100,000 in 2023, an increase which would prove unsustainable for many similar facilities. Since 2019. 65 pools have closed in the UK, with rocketing overheads – largely linked to fuel prices – largely to blame. Just yesterday, Monday 13th March, Sport England unveiled a new £63m fund to help what it describes as ‘vital community resources’ to stay open amid significant financial pressures. 

While this news has been welcomed across the board, promoting such as Deep Green’s would ensure that swimming pools have a long-term future, rather than a short-term bailout. Meanwhile, money that would have been allocated to their survival would be freed up for use elsewhere in the public asset portfolio. And benefits associated with this approach don’t end there. 

Last year, Environment Journal‘s sister magazine, Air Quality News, published an in-depth investigation into the ecological impact of data centres and other types of IT systems relied on by organisations from local authorities to private businesses. With emissions produced by every individual data-based request, the footprint of data centres and server banks is one of the lesser-known and rapidly rising threats to wider efforts at mitigating climate change. While using heat generated from these sites to meet external needs does nothing to directly reduce this, it significantly improves efficiency as the equipment is serving a dual purpose, and reducing the swimming pool’s direct emissions by lowering its overall energy use. 

Image: Clark Tai



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