Deep Green gets £200M from power supplier to scale waste heat reuse

Octopus Energy wants to back server-cooling, district heating projects

Datacenter operator Deep Green has bagged £200 million ($254 million) from power provider Octopus Energy to help scale deployments that give municipal sites free heat in exchange for cooling its IT hardware.

Deep Green is a startup that aims to deploy more datacenters “in the community”, including as part of district heating networks or leisure center facilities such as swimming pools. The idea is that a site hosting the datacenter kit gets free heating generated by Deep Green’s servers processing data, which in turn get free cooling.

In the setup, the servers in Deep Green’s bit barns are submerged in a tank that resembles a chest freezer, with a dielectric fluid circulated around them by pumps. The heat is transferred from this tank to the host site’s hot water system via a heat exchanger.

The site's own heating system only needs to "top up" the temperature of the water if it hasn't reached the desired point using heat captured from Deep Green's unit, the company claims. We're told there is no cost to the host site to install a Deep Green unit as it covers the installation, maintenance and operating costs of the IT infrastructure.

Octopus Energy is providing the £200 million investment via its Octopus Energy Generation tentacle, which invests in renewable energy projects through the Octopus Energy Transition Fund (OETF) and the Sky (ORI SCSp) fund it manages. This is likely to be spread over a number of years, but is relatively small beer for Octopus, which last year disclosed plans to invest £15 billion ($20 billion) in offshore wind by 2030.

This backing is sufficient for Deep Green to deploy into between 100 and 150 more swimming pools, the company said, and it is eyeing larger scale deployments. Just such a scheme was announced last year in London, which will see 10,000 new homes connected to nearby datacenters to use their waste energy for heating in the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Brent and Ealing.

“By using excess heat from datacenters to slash energy bills for communities across the UK, Deep Green solves two problems with one solution,” Octopus Energy Generation chief Zoisa North-Bond 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.”

Deep Green has operated this business model for at least a year. We last discussed the tech when it was deployed at Exmouth Leisure Centre in southwest England, where the waste heat from a dozen of the company’s servers was being used to warm the swimming pool. This was expected to reduce the pool's energy requirements by 62 percent, and save the site more than £20,000 ($25,430) a year on heating bills.

Repurposing waste heat from servers to warm offices or some other use is nothing new, as Microsoft was proposing this more than a decade ago, and there have been numerous examples since. Datacenter operators, however, are increasingly worried about the high cost of energy and keeping their systems cool, as well as the threat of regulations to force them to become greener, so have a more pressing need to find solutions.

“The datacenter sector is rightly facing scrutiny about its growing energy demand and associated carbon emissions,” Deep Green founder and CEO Mark Bjornsgaard said. “Our datacenters are highly energy efficient and support local communities with free heat.”

According to Australian cloud operator ResetData, an on-site datacenter like that provided by Deep Green should be an amenity that building owners offer to tenants. An arrangement of this nature may have the advantage of resilience, because the infrastructure is distributed among a number of different premises. ®

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