back to article Tomorrow Water thinks we should colocate datacenters and sewage plants

Tomorrow Water, a subsidiary of Korean firm BKT, is aiming to make datacenters more environmentally friendly by colocating them with sewage treatment plants, an arrangement it claims can save both energy and water. The idea behind the process is fairly simple: heated water from a datacenter can be used to boost waste water …

  1. b0llchit Silver badge
    Joke

    Flush, rinse, repeat

    It is a really good idea when you can flush all the dirty bits from the data in the center. The filth of the whole net can be treated and cleaned before reentering the network. That is truly a win-win.

    Future data centers may be required to colocate with the treatment plants. Good digital hygiene is a prerequisite for keeping ones and zeroes separated by a good margin. Imagine all the malware and viruses that can be filtered out during treatment. It may need to become mandatory to colocate for our virtual health to improve significantly.

  2. katrinab Silver badge
    Coat

    Did they publish the press release yesterday?

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Meh

      Must be winter/summer time change lag. One hour is a virtual eternity in the digital world.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I been saying this for years. The internet is turning to shit.

    1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

      >The internet is turning to shit.

      At least now it will be hot shit.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge
        Coat

        Get a priest to bless the site, then it'll be holy shit.

    2. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

      No shit, really? I didnt realise.

  4. cyberdemon Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    On Call

    I foresee a future episode of On Call, where our IT hero has to debug the cause of some degraded web app performance, only to find that the whole rack is overheating due to a large brown lump stuck in the inlet hose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On Call

      Then maybe we can rename "On Call" to "Shit Happens"

    2. SteveK

      Re: On Call

      I foresee a future episode of On Call, where our IT hero has to debug the cause of some degraded web app performance, only to find that the whole rack is overheating due to a large brown lump stuck in the inlet hose.

      Many years ago, we had the opposite problem. I work in old Victorian buildings, with walls up to a couple of feet thick, with plumbing frequently contained within.

      One room was frequently getting toilet blockages and unexplained leaks. On investigation, it turned out that the cabling contractors, who had some years previously installed Ethernet throughout, had managed to drill through and then run Ethernet cabling across the waste pipe from the toilet which was running inside the wall between two rooms. This was causing an obstruction, and resulted in many jokes about log messages and so on.

    3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: On Call

      the whole rack is overheating due to a large brown lump stuck in the inlet hose.

      Sounds like a fix that would need to be delegated to turd line support

  5. Do Not Fold Spindle Mutilate

    I worked at a firm which integrated the cooling system with the city water supply. The cold water, in Canada, is cold so that means less air conditioning expenses. That was fine until the city had to shut off the water supply for a few hours to do some sort of repair and there was not enough air con to compensate. So the data centre had to shut down for a while.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I would say it's still a good choice in the long run.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "I worked at a firm which integrated the cooling system with the city water supply. The cold water, in Canada, is cold so that means less air conditioning expenses."

      That has to be approached with care. Luke warm water used to supply a city isn't a good idea. It's a very good environment for growing pathogens.

  6. TimMaher Silver badge
    Flame

    Water companies in England

    They should be forced to co-lo like this, the bastards.

    They’ve been dumping raw sewage into rivers and the sea at an enormous rate, thousands of times a year.

    Whilst declaring regular dividends and paying their board absolute shed loads.

    The bastards!

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Water companies in England

      maybe when the solids have been removed from the sewage, you can burn them to make electricity?

      Recycling to the max!

      (some decades ago i knew people who worked at an experimental power plant, one I actually visited, that ran on cow manure. Yeah, no sh... OK bad PUNishment but still...)

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Water companies in England

        >an experimental power plant, one I actually visited, that ran on cow manure

        There is a reason why biofuel suppliers are locating their plants in farming areas.

        Tomorrow Water''s idea makes logical sense, unlike your typical UK green energy project that locates fields of solar panels, wind turbines etc. miles from the purported energy consumers.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Water companies in England

          You think it would be a good idea to knock down parts of cities to build solar farms? I've also noticed nuclear power plants are built far from their customers too. Perhaps there are good reasons for some things.

          Its not like someone hasnt invented the grid or anything. The pylon bits only lose 1.7% - the 'domestic' side loses between 5 and 8%. So maybe knocking down parts of cities and sorting that out would make some sense.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Water companies in England

            Rather than knocking buildings down, think how much carbon-free energy we would have if every roof in the country was replaced with solar panels?

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Water companies in England

              "Rather than knocking buildings down, think how much carbon-free energy we would have if every roof in the country was replaced with solar panels?"

              Reminds me of a busted video by Dave at EEVblog where there was a street solar install and the company offices nearby didn't have any panels on the roof of their building.

              I agree that rooftop solar is a good thing, but in some places the "government" (California for one) are disincentivizing grid tied systems while at the same time mandating them for new construction. Want to guess at what companies are donating large sums to campaigns? I was talking to a friend in Los Angeles and he told me that there is a proposal to redo the feed-in tariff once again. This time, the power company will no longer pay retail rates (makes sense), but will also charge a monthly fee based on the size of a customer's installed capacity. Anybody that swallowed the koolaid on shortening their ROI by getting paid from the power company for excess power is not going to like the new math. I'm going to keep my system off the grid entirely when it goes in.

              1. J. Cook Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: Water companies in England

                Indeed; I looked into a grid tied system years ago, but after seeing the numbers, I wouldn't see a dime in savings, and the company that would have been leasing the system to me would get all the tax benefits, and after five years, I would have the opportunity to buy a five year old system for the cost of a new one. I passed.

          2. Alpharious

            Re: Water companies in England

            You are not thinking outside of the box. Why knock down the buildings, when you can integrate the solar panels into the windows of skyscrapers or cover the roofs with solar panels? Why destroy farmland, a limited resource that naturally process carbon, when we can be more efficient? Right now, solar is not as viable as the fossil fuels, but we are still working on it. Even after hundreds of years we are still hard pressed to find a better alternative to steam. That's the sad joke of it all, that the modern world still depends on boiling water to make its power.

            1. david 12 Silver badge

              Re: Water companies in England

              Fortunately, our eyes are sensitive to the energy emitted from the sun which reaches the surface of our planet: this enables us to use reflected light to see objects around us.

              Naturally, solar panels use the same energy emitted from the sun. If you cover your windows with something that absorbs solar radiation at the same frequencies used by our eyes, where all the power is, then you don't have windows. You've just got solar panels.

              Unfortunately, half of the solar radiation that reaches a building comes directly from the sun. If you cover the sides of building with solar panels, only the side that faces the sun will receive that solar radiation, and then only to the extent that the panels are broad-side on to the sun. When the sun is high in the sky, it's shining along the length of vertical panels, and they don't actually get much if any sun at all. At morning or night side panels might get some sunlight, if they face in the correct direction, if the sun isn't blocked by hills or other buildings, on a side which faces the sun, although not as much, since the sun has to shine edge-wise through the atmosphere. (We can see in low light conditions, but that's only due to the extraordinary sensitivity or our eyes: solar panels need actual solar energy to produce power).

              The other half of the available solar radiation comes from the sky, but that's spread out over the whole sky, again, panels can only get energy from the part of the sky they see, and only to the extend that they are broad-side to that part of the sky. Vertical panels aren't good at that either.

              If covering the sides of buildings with solar panels was a good idea, people would already be doing so. They don't because, although it is an /obvious/ idea, it is not a /good/ idea.

              1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
                Holmes

                Re: Water companies in England

                If covering the sides of buildings with solar panels was a good idea, people would already be doing so. They don't because, although it is an /obvious/ idea, it is not a /good/ idea.

                Coming down out of the trees wasnt a good idea either, but the trees died off so we had to learn to walk upright..

                Solar windows probably sits somewhere on Dabbsies hierarchy of stupid ideas, but it is being done

                website at www.solarwindow.com/

                All arguments about the poor geometry of window based solar collectors can be countered by -So what else are you doing with that space??

                Then it comes down to economics, and that is something that will always start off terrible, and improve with technological advances and manufacturing scale.

                as an aside, when solar PV first emerged, people used to joke about solar powered flashlights. Now they are just another item in camping catalogues.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: Water companies in England

                  "eople used to joke about solar powered flashlights. Now they are just another item in camping catalogues."

                  In one sense it does sound stupid, but if you have some solar panels on your backpack that charge up your torch during the day while you are hiking, you have that power to use in the evening.

                  I had a little system to power a 12v fridge when I was out playing with rockets on a weekend or prepping a fireworks display. Leaving the fridge plugged into the car would have drained the battery leaving me needing a boost. I sold that to a friend and need to make another one. I like it better than buying ice as my lunch doesn't wind up soggy in the bottom of the cooler.

              2. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

                Re: Water companies in England

                Last I saw solar cells printed 2 layers thick on a flexible film had a theoretical max of 43% efficient. That mans over half of the light is still there.

                Our eyes can see quite well with about 5% of daylight so what's the problem with having solar cells over every building?

            2. Stork Silver badge

              Re: Water companies in England

              The viability depends on where in the world you are.

              In Portugal they make financial sense for smaller installations even when giving surplus away.

              I have ordered a 4kW installation with a predicted ROI of 25-30%, the only reason I didn’t go bigger (optimal size was 5-6kW) is that above 4kW you get into a bureaucratic PITA.

            3. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Water companies in England

              " integrate the solar panels into the windows of skyscrapers"

              That would be a very inefficient use of the solar panels. They'd be too far off-angle to the sun to be very useful except in the dead of winter when the sun is low in the sky.

          3. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Water companies in England

            >You think it would be a good idea to knock down parts of cities to build solar farms?

            There really isn't a valid reason why the majority of UK homes don't have a 3.5KW array of panels. And if we had a government that actually invested in the UK, all of those panels could be made in the UK.

            In my part of the country there are acres of new build warehousing/distribution going up, none have solar panels on their roofs (nor do they have skylights, hence are perfect for covering in panels)...

            I see near Norwich some bright investor has decided it would be a good idea to cover acres of farmland/countryside (equivalent to 65 football pitches) with solar panels to provide electricity to a new business park consisting of your standard built barns...

            Additionally, vertically mounted wind turbines can be usefully deployed in the urban environment.

            However, the above requires a mindset that favours distributed and local rather than big and centralised; which doesn't sit well with the typical UK government.

            >Its not like someone hasnt invented the grid or anything.

            Remember the grid is layered, only the large offshore solar farms are actually connected to the pylon network, everything else is local - but not necessarily local to the wind farm. So near me are two wind farms, however, neither link to the grid at a point that is directly beneficial to the housing and businesses in their immediate surrounding area..,

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Water companies in England

              I do agree with some of your points, but...

              There really isn't a valid reason why the majority of UK homes don't have a 3.5KW array of panels.

              Yes there is - the local (LV) grid couldn't cope. Certainly not the way these things currently connect. Possibly if they were "intelligent" and included local (e.g. battery) storage, but that requires a huge investment in the kind of centralised control & command systems which simply don't exist at the moment, and the myriad of small suppliers have no incentive to co-operate.

              Lack of intelligence (as in, knowing what the small systems are doing) is why grid-scale data about "embedded" generation is pretty much always estimated.

              vertically mounted wind turbines can be usefully deployed in the urban environment

              The very high profile withdrawal from sale by B&Q of small roof-level turbines some years ago was because the things simply don't work properly in built-up environments. Wind turbines need steady, strong wind and buildings tend to create turbulent, often weak flows. A quick search brought up this contemporary paper which attempts to quantify issues in urban environments and contains the following in its conclusion:

              Mean wind speeds at roof top height in the urban environment are much lower than wind atlas figures would suggest. A generic wind atlas such as that available for UK should be used with extreme caution when calculating energy yield...

              Even when mounted above the ridge, the calculations detailed in this paper would suggest that the energy yield of a turbine on a typical house in an urban environment is likely to be low...

              This paper has investigated only wind speeds, and has largely ignored turbulence in the wind flow. Flow close to buildings is likely to be highly turbulent, and this also needs to be studied for its effect on turbine performance.

              And there is always the problem of planning permission. Most PV installations don't need planning permission, most turbines would.

          4. hoola Silver badge

            Re: Water companies in England

            They could locate the solar panels on the 1000s of hectares of sheds that cover green field sites.

            That is the utter insanity however cost rules and whilst companies are not forced to do this and farmers can make millions selling fields for "green" projects, very little will change.

            Of course the nice little gem hidden in this is once those fields are covered in solar panels, they are now commercial and brown field sites.

            Solar on green field is a developers wet dream.

          5. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

            Re: Water companies in England

            How about large wind turbines on the top of the tallest buildings in the city centers ?

            1. Roger Kynaston Silver badge

              Re: Water companies in England

              It has been tried with 'limited' success

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strata_SE1

              The principle of your idea is a good one though.

            2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: How about large wind turbines on the top of the tallest buildings in the city centers ?

              Judging by the windy conditions in streets with tall buildings, putting them at first floor level might be a reliable source of energy.

        2. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

          Actually, 400kV transmission lines are much more efficient than you seem to imply. Because it is such high voltage, very little current is needed for a LOT of power, and the resistive losses which go as I^2 R are very low.

          The high-voltage part of the transmission system is on average about 99% efficient i.e. 1% is lost in transit between the power station (say, Drax up north) and the load (say, Birmingham). To send the power all the way from Drax down to London would cost you no more than another 0.5%. But the lower the voltage, the more that tends to be lost in transmission, even over a short distance.

          What worries me the most about the Green Energy transition though, is low-voltage local distribution. I.e. what happens when each house on a street needs 40 Amps for their EV charger, 40 Amps for their Heat Pump, and 40 Amps for an electric shower? The answer is that the underground electric cable, often rated at 400A, overheats. And even when they are not on fire or exploding, these low voltage underground cables are often very warm, which is a lot of lost energy, often 5-10%. If the gas grid lost as much energy in transit, you'd smell it everywhere and there would be major fires and explosions.

          But these losses are off-meter (though they are part of the reason that electricity costs 4-5 times more than gas per kWh) so you can spend a fortune on your heat pump and electric SUV and kid yourself that you are saving the planet.

          Drifting somewhat offtopic, but What really grinds my gears is when people like BBC radio presenters start to imply that there is some sort of problem with nationwide electricity transmission, when actually it's the one part of the system that works really well. This morning they were spouting some bollocks about Nuclear Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), saying that the idea behind them is that they can be placed near to towns and cities for efficiency, but wouldn't this be terrible for safety! This is absolute hogswash. FUD at best, and deliberate anti-nuclear propaganda at worst. SMRs would of course be located in the usual nuclear sites for safety, defensibility etc., but instead of having 2x 500MW reactors, you would have 20x 50MW reactors. This makes them much cheaper and faster to build and maintain. That is all.

          1. Martin-R

            Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

            Could you hear me shouting at the radio too…?

            I know people who were looking at something like this about 10 years back and the key arguments were, yeah, small reactor less efficient than big, but

            1) small reactor much easier to build and manage

            2) if you 20 50MW reactors it’s easy to take one off line each month for maintenance rather than losing 500MW for a year or more

            As to the technology being unproven, I just assumed RR would be delivering something based on the submarine reactors they’ve been building since about 1966

            I say this as someone who lives about 5km from several nuclear reactors and 7km from a recently decommissioned coal plant - I know which worried me more!

            1. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

              Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

              ISTR reading a short article back in the oughties (probably the in back pages of New Scientist or something like that) about some American company mulling the idea of domestic reactors.

              Each such 'device' would take the form of a long spike-like thing, buried 30ft down in your back garden.

              Of necessity it would be next-to maintenance-free. Can you imagine asking the guy down the street - the one who 'knows a thing or two' - to take a look and adjust the output or something like that.

              Think of the new and interesting varieties of rose you might be able to grow...

              Or "Yes, good boy, Rover. Now put the bone back in the ground...'

              1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

                Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

                > Think of the new and interesting varieties of rose you might be able to grow...

                In the 50's (naturally) there was a scientific movement called Atomic Gardening where a radioactive source was placed in a the middle of a field and plants were grown at varying distances.

                This encouraged the (surviving) plants to mutate.

                "Ruby-red grapefruit, rice, wheat, pears, cotton, peas, sunflowers, bananas and countless other produce owe their present-day heartiness to the genetic modification afforded by atomic gardening."

                It's worth a Google.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

                  "Ruby-red grapefruit, rice, wheat, pears, cotton, peas, sunflowers, bananas and countless other produce owe their present-day heartiness to the genetic modification afforded by atomic gardening."

                  What utter tosh.

                  I have no idea about grapefruit but the "green revolution" brought about by "super" rice, disease and wind-resistant (shorter) wheat was absolutely a product of traditional (if massively scaled-up and industrialised) selective breeding as well as the problematic introduction of fertilisers and pesticides where none were previously used. Pears are ancient fruit and like apples have been selectively bred in European (and other) orchards for centuries. Cotton, peas, sunflowers I dunno, but one of the big problems with bananas is that they are all clones of one - probably naturally-occurring - variety (Cavendish) first cultivated in the early 1800s and therefore one single disease could wipe out the entire world supply, as happened to the Gros Michel variety in the 1950s.

                  If you had written your text a couple of days previously, if you had included the "Joke" or "I'll get my coat" icon or if you had posted anonymously it would have been more obvious, but since you seem to believe what you write, it's absolutely necessary to debunk it.

                  (I have no doubt that someone somewhere has done experiments to see how plants cope under different levels of radiation, but not for the purpose of mutating new commercial varieties!)

                  1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

                    Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

                    I didn't say it was massively successful. I said it was an interesting thing to read about.

                    The items quoted were from an article I found to add more information to my comment. However from what I've briefly read on the subject, it was more common than "someone somewhere".

                    But if you're going to be a dick about it, it has apparently had its successes:

                    "Ideally, some plants might develop mutations that could prove beneficial, and then be bred into normal plants.

                    A peppermint plant resistant to particular strains of wilt, for example, was bred using atomic gardening."

                    --

                    "“Though poorly known, radiation breeding has produced thousands of useful mutants and a sizable fraction of the world’s crops, Dr. Lagoda said, including varieties of rice, wheat, barley, pears, peas, cotton, peppermint, sunflowers, peanuts, grapefruit, sesame, bananas, cassava and sorghum. The mutant wheat is used for bread and pasta and the mutant barley for beer and fine whiskey.

                    The mutations can improve yield, quality, taste, size and resistance to disease and can help plants adapt to diverse climates and conditions.”

                    If you’re wondering if you’ve ever consumed a grain, fruit, or vegetable that comes from an induced mutation, the answer is probably “Yes”. You might know that you have eaten a Rio Star graepfruit, or a “Gold Nijisseiki” Japanese pear. But you might be unaware that you’re consuming induced-mutation cultivars in the “Durum” wheat in your pasta, or the “Reimei” rice in your curry."

              2. cyberdemon Silver badge
                Devil

                Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

                Yeah, I vaguely remember that idea popping up as well, and I really wish it hadn't, because as I said earlier, it is patently stupid and has polluted the discourse on SMRs.

                The only reason to colocate power generation with housing, is combined heat and power. This does make energy use more efficient, but efficiency is pretty pointless when the energy supply itself is basically limitless and the only cost is in managing the infrastructure to get it out. CHP with nuclear would be an utter nightmare for any safety regulator. (You're sending coolant water WHERE? Yes I know there are five heat exchangers in the way..)

                CHP makes much more sense with gas power, of course. 60% of our electricity comes from gas, and gas power generation is 60% efficient at best, but a further 10% is lost in distribution, and those losses go up with the square of demand, ultimately leading to overheating cables.

                Therefore, electric heating without heat pumps (and even in some cases even WITH heat pumps) is less efficient than a condensing gas boiler.

                I suppose having a barrel of nuclear waste under your back garden would at least make a ground-source heat pump a bit more efficient!

                Back on topic though, what about running a sewer-source heat pump? A lot of waste heat goes down the drain, and it might be a bit more efficient extracting heat from waste water than air. On the other hand, frozen sewers would not be a good thing.

            2. Richard 12 Silver badge

              "Unproven"

              That had me screaming at the radio too.

              Interviewee says "nuclear is unproven, we should be building renewable with lots of battery storage"

              Interviewer lets that go out on air!

              Large-scale battery storage isn't even out of a lab yet. Nobody has any idea how to do it! There's a few paper proposals, but none that are believed to scale large enough.

              1. cyberdemon Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: "Unproven"

                Nuclear is unproven?? Tell that to the French! :(

                Indeed, a battery that could power the UK for a day, nevermind a week of calm weather, would cost more than a few nuke plants, and I wonder which would cause more pollution (mining a million tonnes of lithium vs one ton of uranium) and which would be most likely to cause a fatal accident or poison a large swath of land (lithium batteries produce HF when they burn - not a nice chemical).

                Traditional fuel cells need 5 tonnes of platinum per GW (not cheap) And solid-oxide fuel-cells are terribly inefficient (they must be kept at a temperature of 500 degrees C) and suffer catastrophic meltdowns which can be caused by vibration shock or old-age failure (a wafer thin piece of ceramic separates hydrogen and oxygen, at 500C. What could possibly go wrong with that idea?).

              2. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: "Unproven"

                Large-scale battery storage isn't even out of a lab yet

                It's probably worth asking what you mean by "large scale" because there are some battery installations already up-and-running in the UK at the multi-megawatt scale. This article from May 2021 claims that at that point, 1.3GW of battery capacity was already in place, with the potential for a total of 16GW over the next few years.

                Of course, this tells you nothing of the actual storage capacity - that is the total GWh available - but just last week a system of around 360MW / 390MWh was announced, which isn't really a heck of a lot. It's not even as much as traditional pumped storage systems. Ffestiniog (not a huge system) is capable of 360MW "for several hours" (the website linked doesn't state explicitly, but a simple cubic meters per second / cubic meters stored gives 20 hours - though that could be 10 or 5 depending on how you interpret the counts) while according to Wikipedia, Dinorwig (Britain's biggest) is capable of storing 9.1GWh.

                The difference is that even with current technologies, battery systems are cheaper and quicker to build, and much less demanding of specific geography or planning constraints!

                One promising technology is Hydrogen storage. Not terribly efficient overall, but if you use electrolysis to generate Hydrogen when your (say) wind turbine is over-producing and the grid doesn't want the electricity (see for example this tender for "constraint management") then you could later use that Hydrogen in a gas turbine, or even in a fuel cell, when the wind isn't blowing. Some companies are looking into this, but it is still in the research stage at the moment.

                M.

                1. cyberdemon Silver badge
                  Mushroom

                  Re: "Unproven"

                  If you've ever tried the electrolysis experiment at home, you'll find that whatever you use as the negative electrode disintegrates pretty damn quick, unless you make it out of Platinum..

                  Battery systems are useful for short-term fault tolerance (frequency balancing) but not for bulk energy storage of the kind that we would need to make wind power reliable.

                  The only viable solution to get us out of the energy crisis IMO is nuclear SMRs (yes, for once I agree with Boris), but unfortunately there are too many powerful lobby groups including the likes of Drax, Octopus and the Oil/Gas industry, who stand to make less money, and they are easily able to spread the FUD around with the hippy green groups who don't know anything about science or engineering.

          2. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

            > each house on a street needs 40 Amps for their EV charger, 40 Amps for their Heat Pump, and 40 Amps for an electric shower?

            Some low hanging fruit here would be to pause the charging of their electric vehicle whilst they shower. Or use the EV battery to run the heat pump. Or shower using water that has been used as a thermal store. Maybe a warmer house will help people spend less time under the hot shower, that they develop a lather then rinse routine.

            You're right that these things start out as the playthings of the wealthy. As did the bicycle. There are some challenges for sure, but none that require us to break the laws of physics to solve.

            Also, individual actions are largely futile, we need a better grip on how things are organised. Companies employ engineers, accountants, psychologists to persue their goals, goals that aren't properly aligned with ours. ( Indeed, it was a deliberate PR campaign that trained us to believe littering was the fault of people, not Coca Cola or McDonalds.) One, I can't fight that as an individual, Two, it seems a waste of talent not to have them work with us.

            Yikes, it looks like I might have to overcome my aversion to committees.

            1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
              Paris Hilton

              Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

              > help people spend less time under the hot shower, that they develop a lather then rinse routine.

              The fascism isn't far from the surface in this green ideology, is it?

            2. cyberdemon Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

              Yes indeed, the problem could be mitigated by changing everyone's main incoming fuse to 40A instead of 100A so that they cannot charge their EV and run their heating or have a shower at the same time. Or if they wanted to run the heating and the shower they'd have to discharge the EV. Not great for the morning before the commute.

              However, there is still a problem, because the underground cables are sized on a 'diversity' argument, i.e. they cannot cope with every house on a street drawing its maximum load at once, because that would require a massive cable that is never going to be needed. And before EVs and widespread electric heating that was true. But soon, many more people will want to draw more than 40A for long periods of time, and that is going to make the distribution system inefficient (losses = I^2 R remember) and much more likely to fail.

              There's another problem: Inverter-driven heat pumps and EV chargers are constant-power devices. Like with a switched-mode power supply for a laptop, if you lower the input voltage, it will automatically draw more current from the AC to supply the same power to the DC load. That means if excessive current due to excessive load on the circuit causes the voltage to drop, then EVs, heat pumps, (as well as computers, laptops, TVs etc) will respond by drawing more current. I^2 R means that the losses in the cables go up with the square of that current, and that's when you get an exploding underground cable.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

                New builds already are getting 40A and 50A incomers.

                I am wondering what's going to happen to all those when they can't get a new gas boiler...

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: unlike your typical UK green energy project

                  New builds already are getting 40A and 50A incomers.

                  Citation needed

                  As far as I'm aware, in the UK the standard connection is still either 80A or 100A (230V 1ɸ) and indeed Western Power Distribution (and I'm sure others) are already trialling three phase to domestic premises precisely to account for electric boilers, heat pumps and electric cars.

                  M.

            3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

              Re: low hanging fruit

              Some low hanging fruit here would be to pause the charging of their electric vehicle whilst they shower. Or use the EV battery to run the heat pump. Or shower using water that has been used as a thermal store. Maybe a warmer house will help people spend less time under the hot shower, that they develop a lather then rinse routine.

              Great. Let's all make our lives less convenient and relinquish choice of what we can do and when, because power companies and governments are too lazy and obsessed with shareholder value to fix the underlying problems, which are:

              1) Woefully insufficient reliable baseload generating capacity for this wonderful green revolution, and...

              2) A power distribution network that cannot handle required loads at national, regional or local levels, such that people cannot simply use the power they need, when they need to use it.

              I can't speak for everyone, but personally I prefer a future that doesn't involve utility companies deciding when I can take a shower, charge my car, wash my clothes or cook my meals.

      2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

        Re: Water companies in England

        maybe when the solids have been removed from the sewage, you can burn them to make electricity?

        Just the Board members, or all the rest of the bastards too?

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Water companies in England

      > They should be forced to co-lo like this, the bastards

      Essentially, I agree. Forced. Because the fact that many, if not most water companies have allowed sewage problems to persist since they were privatised suggests that the failure was one of oversight. They may well be bastards, but that's irrelevant to why they acted this way: their behaviour can be explained by them just doing what they do to increase shareholder return within the poorly drafted / enforced agreement. If I build a rat run and then find the rats have ended up in the 'wrong' place, I don't blame the result on the rats - even if they are bastards - because the fault must lie with me somewhere.

      So, write to your MP. On paper. Private Eye have been in about this for years, the Daily Telegraph picked it up as a campaign the other month.

  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    go left or right?

    > colocate datacentres and sewage

    Just like putting the fax machine (remember them?) next to the shredder, it is vitally important that people can tell (smell?) one from the other.

    1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

      Re: go left or right?

      > it is vitally important that people can tell (smell?) one from the other.

      They can be named to clearly distinguish the separate facilities. I suggest the "Number One" and "Number Two" processing centres.

  8. HildyJ Silver badge
    Go

    Data center cooling

    Of the recent articles on data center cooling [has there been a conference?] this seems the most doable.

    A boiler with steam pipes to distribute heat is an ancient (Greek and Roman) technology. Using a data center as a heat source makes perfect sense.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Data center cooling

      And you can give all the staff a 6month holiday in the summer when you can't cool the data center - also a Greek idea

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Data center cooling

        depending on how hot the water is, you can use it to generate chilled water using an absorption chiller.

  9. redpawn

    Heat exchanger?

    I can understand using the spare heat, but do you want treated waste running through your data center? It seems a heat exchanger might be called for to keep things clean online.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Heat exchanger?

      You mean the shit shouldn't hit the fans ?

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Heat exchanger?

      Given there won't be any brown stuff in treated waste, you'll be alright. It's the stuff they use on sports fields...

      I can think of worse things to circulate through data centres... raw sewage being an example.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Heat exchanger?

      They should definitely hook whichever industrial control system is in charge of the valves/crossfeeds to the internet, and drop the address somewhere on 4chan. I want to see techs wading knee deep through literal shit to rescue their servers when things go wrong :D

  10. Spoonsinger

    Read the title as chocolate...

    On re-reading it made sense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Read the title as chocolate...

      It would be very distressing to hear that my chocolate came from a sewage reprocessing facility. Then again it would likely still taste better then chocolate from the US.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Read the title as chocolate...

      Glad I wasn't the only one.

  11. Mayday Silver badge
    Go

    I like the idea

    Presuming the treated water is non-potable, then put it to some use. Having the data centre local means no need to transport the water via means of pipes, tankers/trucks or whatever else. There's also be other suitable infrastructure such as sufficient power etc.

    In other news, years ago I had a customer which was a shit farm. Lagoons everywhere and didn't smell as nice as Bangkok or Denpasar. OH&S signs everywhere saying "Life Jackets MUST be Worn When Near the Lagoons". I thought, "Hmmm I don't think I want one. If I fell in there I don't think I'd want to live to be able to recall the experience"

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: I like the idea

      The H&S industry in the UK is massive. Not that it does that much, but sales of high-viz is the end goal, not safety.

      I should have copied the video of a survey team in a field doing some work. Hard hats, safety glasses, boots (maybe even steel toe) and hi-viz while holding a stick. In the background were some kids in shorts and trainers running around flying a kite (no helmets, gasp).

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: I like the idea

        High Viz? For sure, the workmen's jackets are a bright shade of orange... but so are the plastic road barriers and their 360 digger. *Everything* in their immediate environment is the same shade of orange. How can the digger driver see his mates if they are sodding *camouflaged*?!

        Or maybe they're like zebras, they do it to confuse predators.

        (Or whatever the latest thinking on zebra stripes is. I had heard it was to differentially heat air and thus create thermal currents for cooling. Or maybe it was to befuddle biting insects. )

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: I like the idea

          Black Hi-Vis is a real thing, I've got some.

          Just saying

  12. beast666

    Co-locating a Twitter datacentre with a sewage farm seems like a no-brainer.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Shitter?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "Shitter?"

        Would the logo for that be SFW? ..... a jobie with wings.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          In a tasteful blue? Well you either have porphyria or you're doing the ZOE Blue Poop experiment. ZOE used their app to track COVID symptoms in the UK at least. I guess they use a data centre to process all that citizen science. Sounds like a really neat lock-up.

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      Twitter datacentre

      Sewage farm

      no-brainer

      How many ways can you say the same thing?

  13. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Not sure about sewage

    In Iceland they use geothermal to keep greenhouses warm allowing them to grow a fair amount of food. We could at last become a banana republic!

    The sewage idea seems to be doomed in the UK given the putting shit in rivers companies always use the lack of land excuse for not expanding their sewage farms though they could of course be telling porkies.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Not sure about sewage

      We could at last become a banana republic!

      But then you'd have a radiation problem because of the radioactive potassium in the bananas. This amounts to significant problems because a banana republic has so many radioactive bananas that it can make anyone go bananas (and glow green-yellow at the same time).

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Not sure about sewage

      Somewhere on the Eastern side of the county (if a remember correctly) there is a farm that is mostly greenhouses growing tomatoes. This is next to a gas powered power station. Exhaust gases from the power station are used to increase the CO2 in the greenhouses improving crop yield and raising the temperature.

      Now with sewage we still get some heat but the main gas output is methane, still useful as you can burn it to do things.

      Maybe to incinerate all the non-biodegradable junk that people put down the drains creating more heat.

  14. TRT Silver badge

    I've always thought that the low grade warm air could be put to use in agriculture (polytunnels) So location near a farm is good. The solids from waste treatment make a good fertiliser.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      The testing for pathogens makes using humanure problematic. Even worse is the load of pharmaceuticals found in waste. If the crop is flowers or used for alcohol production (anything not food related), it might be a good use of the "refined end product".

      Waste heat is a vast untapped commodity. I shake my head at big cooling towers at power plants. That waste heat would be great for agriculture and if it's a combustion plant, the CO2 would be useful as well. Growing lettuces hydroponically in a high CO2 environment works well. It also keeps the bugs down as there isn't enough Oxygen for them. You can't have stupid people working at those facilities unless there are good locks on the doors.

      I'm always on the look out for processes and products made from the waste stream of some other process. Getting the inputs to your product for free is sometimes a good deal. It all depends on how bad your waste stream winds up being.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Or bio-fuel crops, indeed!

      2. the Jim bloke Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Growing lettuces hydroponically in a high CO2 environment works well. It also keeps the bugs down as there isn't enough Oxygen for them. You can't have stupid people working at those facilities unless there are good locks on the doors.

        Sadly, politicians wont let you lock stupid people up, because that is their powerbase.

  15. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    SISO

    Surely I'm not the first poster here to drag GIGO into this century?

    1. quxinot

      Re: SISO

      SISO.

      FTFY.

  16. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Meh

    good idea vs bad ideas

    That is actually not a s#1++y idea!

  17. Juha Meriluoto

    Well...

    ..then it would be easy to get rid of the s**t your average data center is filled with...

  18. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
    Holmes

    Why not just run part of the mains water system through data centres?

    It doesn't have to consume the water, it just has to dump heat into it. Heat that will be dissipated underground, miles before it reaches the customers tap.

    Of course it would have to be regulated and inspected and all that, but it wouldn't use any water and the additional pumping requirements would be minimal at best.

    The water company could even provide a heat exchanger to the data centre out so that the water doesn't even have to leave the pipe.

    In hindsight this seems really obvious. What am I missing?

    1. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

      All the water mains that I've seen when they dig the roads up in London are blue plastic and about the size a child could crawl through. I imagine they wouldn't radiate too much heat and putting additional pipework inside as a heat exchanger would restrict the flow too much

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

        > Reducing flow

        Perhaps tapping some of the water like an outlet to a house, running that through a heat exchanger, then pumping that water back in at higher pressure slightly further down the pipe? The cost of the extra pumping would presumably be more than covered by the fee being paid by the DC ?

        Over many miles, with that volume of water, surely the change in temperature would be imperceptible? Plastic might not be a great conductor of heat, but it's not a perfect insulator either.

    2. Spoobistle

      Legionella

      You're missing a comment made above, that warm water in pipes breeds legionella, so you'd have a whole lot of extra safety work to do.

      Not that district heating type systems are a bad idea, they seem to be quite frequent outside the UK. Perhaps the problem here is that you want such a system to work for 30 to 50 years, and many UK industrial concerns just aren't going to last that long!

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

        Re: Legionella

        > Legionella

        Surely the volume of water coming down the pipe would be able to absorb the (relatively) little bit of heat from the DC without causing problems?

        And doesn't chlorine kill legionella?

    3. hoola Silver badge

      The first issue is pressure, mains water pressure is surprisingly high so the only way to do this would be to have heat exchangers from the data centre. Chilled water cooling also has a load of additives in to stop freezing and corrosion. Now in many ways that is always the best way as it isolates the two environments.

      Then you have the temperature, chilled water for cooling is usually between 4 & 10 degrees, the newer the system the higher it is likely to be. Now mains water can very quite considerably with it being high when the outside temperature rises over summer, the point at which you need it cooler. Now, just like condenser boilers and pre-heating or pre-cooling building air handling, you could still do something to reduce the amount of cooling required.

      I am not sure on the issues of the water being heated as well, that has the potential to allow bacteria to develop.

  19. osxtra

    Thinking In The Toilet

    This idea is absolutely the shit!

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