Dutch region Zeeland to get datacentre without diesel backup

One of the world’s most sustainable datacentres is to be built in the southwest region of the Netherlands, and is said to be the first datacentre to use battery backup rather than a diesel generator

Good accessibility, connectivity and relatively cheap land makes companies from all over the world choose Amsterdam and its surroundings as a location for their datacentre sites.

But a datacentre project in Zeeland, the westernmost and least populated province of the Netherlands, could trigger a land-grab farther away from the Dutch capital.

Amsterdam is the fastest growing location of the four top European datacentre sites: Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris.

But in the Netherlands, the market growth is not limited to Amsterdam. More rural areas can count on interest as well. That might be due to the fact that the Netherlands is a small country and every datacentre is within a 30-minute drive from anywhere in the country.

“New datacentres [in the Netherlands] will be filled. Customers will automatically find their way to new datacentres,” said Gregor Petri, research vice-president at Gartner.

Yet research conducted by the Dutch Datacentre Association shows that regional datacentre success doesn’t come naturally.

Plentiful power sources

The Green Bay seeks to challenge those statistics. It has advanced plans to open a new datacentre in Zeeland, a southwest province in the Netherlands.

According to The Green Bay’s chief communications officer, Gerben Ouwens, the biggest challenge for a datacentre is energy supply. “That is a reason for us not to pick Amsterdam as a preferred location. There are too many datacentres in those surroundings already and their need for sufficient energy places a huge pressure on the local energy grid,” he said.

Zeeland, in contrast, has plenty of space, and the location The Green Bay has in mind is close to a rich supply of energy. As well as the traditional electricity grid, The Green Bay also has access to alternative power supplies, including large windmill farms that are being built along the coastline.

In addition, physical distance from exchanges is no longer an issue. “Connectivity these days is fast enough to be connected to internet exchanges. It is no longer necessary to be in Amsterdam to take advantage of AMS-IX, for example,” said Ouwens.

No need for diesel backup

It was this access to multiple energy supplies that led to The Green Bay’s decision not to install an emergency diesel generator. Instead, it will have 50MW batteries that will be able to supply three hours of energy in case of a power outage. Engineering firm Royal Haskoning DHV, which is also involved with building the new datacentre, calculated three hours to be enough.

“The availability of energy in that particular place in Zeeland is huge,” said Martien Arts, director of mission-critical facilities at Royal Haskoning DHV. “The batteries are an emergency backup for switching to another supplier in case of an outage. The sheer number of energy opportunities[will make it possible] for the datacentre to be fully functional without an emergency diesel generator.”

The Green Bay’s Ouwens is not afraid of a large power outage, such as the one Amsterdam suffered last year, which lasted a few hours. “The last time there was a power outage at the location we intend to build the new datacentre was in 2004. There are four separate quadrants to which we will connect redundantly,” he said.

Seawater cooling system

Another aspect that contributes to the sustainability of the new datacentre is the fact that seawater will function as a cooling mechanism.

“The location we have in mind is a former coal-fired power station. By reusing the seawater cooling from the old plant, we can be 30% more energy efficient compared to datacentres that use traditional cooling with chillers,” said Ouwens. 

Although Zeeland might not be the obvious choice of location, the region offers numerous benefits for datacentres.

For one, it is somewhat above sea level, in contrast to Amsterdam. “The location where the new datacentre will be has extra protection against water and heightened dikes, so it is easily one of the safest places of Zeeland,” said Royal Haskoning DHV’s Arts.

In addition, the Netherlands offers direct connections with North-America. Eleven of the 15 trans-Atlantic sea cables come ashore in the Netherlands, of which one is in Zeeland. Land is relatively cheap to come by, compared with the Amsterdam region, and the pressure on the electricity grid is quite low.

The Green Bay is aiming to attract mainly large ICT-organisations such as systems integrators and cloud providers. Building the new site involves an investment of about €140m. According to Ouwens, the new datacentre will provide about 30 permanent jobs and between 100 and 150 temporary jobs.

The build is expected to start in the second half of this year, with completion planned for the summer of 2019.


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