This article is part of our Essential Guide: Essential guide to prefabricated and micro datacentres

Interview: Building the 'world's greenest datacentre' in Falun, Sweden

The world’s first datacentre operating to mutual advantage with the district's heating and energy systems is being built in the Swedish town of Falun

The world’s first datacentre operating to mutual advantage with the district's heating and energy systems is being built in the Swedish town of Falun

The excess heat from EcoDataCenter will warm the buildings in Falun through the town's heating system. In summer, the heat from the IT equipment and excess steam from the local electricity plant will be used to power the machines cooling the datacentre.

Behind the venture is energy utility Falu Energi & Vatten in collaboration with datacentre entrepreneurs EcoDC.

“Other players are also starting to look at re-using the energy in district heating systems, but we are the first to utilise it all the way in EcoDataCenter. Apple says they will do it in Denmark in the future, while customers are moving in to our datacentre at the beginning of 2016,” says Jan Fahlén, business developer for datacentres at Falu Energi & Vatten.

“This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but the reason others aren’t doing it is that it requires a very strong collaboration with the local energy company,” says Fahlén.

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Driving down energy consumption

Some datacentres in cold countries are exploiting the climate by airing out the heat, but Fahlén does not like the method. “It’s brutally bad for the environment, and it’s also expensive to waste energy. Since we re-use all energy, the relatively cool climate here in Falun is quite unimportant to us,” he says.

EcoDataCenter will consume as little energy as possible by using an array of energy efficiency systems and products from energy specialist Schneider Electric.

“All new datacentres are using these kind of technologies, to a varying degree. But compared to existing datacentres, we will cut the internal power losses by about 70%,” says Fahlén.”

The datacentre's power usage effectiveness (PUE) value will be less than 1.15.

“These two things – the integration with the district heating system and the energy efficiency solutions and products – mean that we will be the world’s greenest datacentre,” says Fahlén.

"We will even be the world’s first climate-positive datacentre, since we re-use all energy – both in the summer and the winter.”

This is not just a benefit for the environment – it also means significantly reduced costs.

“Even though we offer better performance than most datacentres we will be 20% to 30% cheaper. And that means a lot of money for the customers,” he says.

Availability enhances datacentre proposition

EcoDataCenter will be one of the safest datacentres in the world, with a guaranteed uptime of 100%. “We are attaining the highest level of availability according to Uptime Institute Tier IV and, on top of that, we have two energy sources: Duplicated emergency energy generators and the local electricity plant, which will keep on producing energy even if the rest of the world is standing still,” says Fahlén.

Fahlén says the high security is essential to attract big customers. “Both public and private organisations are being increasingly dependent on access to their data. It costs a lot of money to lose data or to be unable to access it, and today this is not only the responsibility of the CIO, but also of the CEO and the board,” he says.

Fahlén says EcoDataCenter hopes to attract customers from all over the world, due to its good connections.

“Telia have told us they will be present in our datacentre, and we co-operate with other carriers as well,” he says.

Fahlén says location is an advantage: “Sweden has good geopolitical stability, a lot of competence in all things datacentre, an abundance of energy and low energy costs.”

Customers' remote management

EcoDataCenter is a colocation facility, which means it provides space, power, bandwidth, cooling and physical security for customers' servers, storage and networking equipment.

“We are not an IT enterprise – we are a process industry, guaranteeing the customers’ IT operations can function. We can also help the customers with simple stuff, like changing disks – but that is an extra service. About 15 people will be working as kind of IT janitors at EcoDataCenter.”

The customers will be handling most things remotely, but EcoDataCenter will offer a few temporary work places. ”We don’t think we will have any problems getting customers. We are not lacking in inquiries, and we are having discussions with a potential customer that wants a whole house.”

At the moment three buildings are planned. In all the premises will cover 23,250m2.

“We will have room for 2,400 server racks, which will make us one of the biggest colocation datacentres in Sweden. And since we have a very high energy density – 20 kilowatts per rack – we can accommodate about 2,000 virtual servers in each rack.”

Environmental construction and the future

The developers are constructing buildings in as an environmentally friendly way as possible, says Fahlén. They are careful to limit energy use during construction work, and to remove as little forest as possible.

“We also have flowering plants on the roofs, which will cool them throughout the summer and reduce the surface water emitted to the surroundings. We even chose the colours of the buildings to be as energy-smart as possible,” says Fahlén.

The first three houses will cost less than SEK1bn to build. “This is really cheap, compared to other datacentres,” says Fahlén. "The land is really inexpensive here in Falun compared to for example Stockholm or London; and we buy everything directly from the vendors, without any middle men.”

Both Fahlén and the entrepreneurs in EcoDC have a long history of building datacentres, and are planning to build several more in the future.

“This has the possibility to become a new base industry, and we want to develop this further, both in Sweden and in other countries,” says Fahlén.

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