Norway to house the world’s biggest green data centre
Startup Kolos is planning to build a record-breaking data centre in the town of Ballangen in northern Norway.
The data centre will use chilled air and local hydropower to help keep energy costs down, as reported by the BBC.
Kolos recently raised investment from a Series A funding round involving Norwegian investors which is meant to be worth “several million dollars” but is working with a US investment bank to secure the remaining funds.
To make it the largest data centre in the world, it claims that within the decade it will have enough computer servers to draw on 1,000MW. Initially, it will only draw 70MW.
The centre is expected to cover 600,000 sq m and will be a four-storey building. The current record holder measures around 585289.2 sq m and is based in Langfang in China. That said, there is an advanced data centre being built in Nevada by Switch. Dubbed the ‘the Citadel’ it, will when finished, measure 668901.9 sq m. The Nevada data centre will use 100% renewable energy but, however, will only need up to 650MW.
In March, a meeting was held where Kolos signed a contract of purchase and presented plans for building the data centre.
Håvard Lillebo, CEO of Kolos, explained why the company chose that area: “In northern Norway, we actually have Europe’s cheapest power, which is also 100% renewable. In addition, Ofoten and Ballangen have extremely good access to dark fiber, which is a prerequisite for running data centres.”
There are other advantages, too, such as the region’s cold stable climate which will help keep cooling costs low, as well as having a solid power grid. The company also claimed that the nearby river creates a physical barrier to protect the facility.
Kolos expects the data centre to have a good effect on the nearby community and provide them with new jobs, direct and indirect. It compared the situation to when Facebook built a 30,000 sq m data centre in the city of Luleå.
Kolos claimed its project will be the largest green data centre in the world as 100% of its energy will be powered by hydropower and wind. Kolos called Norway the world’s leader in green power, making it the perfect place for the project. It hoped to operate a 60% reduction in energy costs, providing significant onward cost savings for customers.
The project is backed by five mayors in the area and Kolos estimates the centre will directly create 2,000 to 3,000 new jobs and indirectly support 10,000 to 15,000 jobs as a result of people moving to Ballangen.
Clive Longbottom, principal analyst and founder at Quocrica, said it wasn’t completely clear if the date centre was definitely going ahead, but admitted that it was a big project involving a lot of power which will benefit from free-air and chilled water cooling. He did say that it’s not the easiest place to get to and underlined that Kolos’s website does not explicitly say what the data centre will be used for.
He added: “European companies looking for a native datacentre are more likely to go for an EU country – and Sweden has a thriving datacentre market, as do plenty of others where power may not be so cheap, but getting there could be easier and cheaper (e.g. Holland).”
The company claiming that the river creates a natural moat is a little strange, according to Longbottom, who added: “[The fact that] Kolos hasn’t even broken ground yet means that this facility is not going to be available for a long time: what will the market be like for the data centre space when it is ready? Why not build in stages like most datacentre companies do, ramping up occupancy rates in one building before ploughing money (which may not be there) in to another phase?”
He continued: “By the time this is completed, just how much cheaper will Norwegian renewable power be than, e.g. German photovoltaic or Danish/Dutch wind power?
“It is likely that energy costs will start to drift down as the EU continues to invest in renewables: unless Kolos can counter the overall high cost of living of Norway, then its overall costs could still be higher than many other dedicated facilities across Europe – never mind those that are being built in developing nations with low/renewable power and low human resources costs.”
David Groombridge, research director at Gartner, said it makes sense to build data centres in locations where the power is very cheap and the cooling is reduced because of the air temperatures.
“As we all know, power is a considerable cost within large data centres and this seems like a good move to reduce the operational expenditure, increase the green credentials of clients who use it and provide capacity in a relatively stable and well connected area of the world,” he said.
“Having said that, the business that is building it, Kolos, is not an organisation that I am familiar with, and they do appear to be a fairly recent startup. You’d have to expect that we need to know more information about what they are actually going to deliver.”