Plans to build the world's largest data centre made public

Plans to build the world's largest data centre made public

The facility is planned for the Norwegian town of Ballangen, which is located inside the Arctic Circle. The firm behind the project, Kolos, says the chilled air and abundant hydropower available locally would help it keep its energy costs down. Kolos says it is 'changing the paradigm in data centre infrastructure, moving away from dense high-cost, fossil fuel-driven areas, to an area abundant in clean, renewable energy'.

The US-Norwegian company says it has already raised 'several million dollars' for the project from Norwegian private investors. But it is still working with a US investment bank to secure the remaining necessary funds.

It is basing its record-setting claims on the amount of power it intends to draw on to run its computer servers. Initially, Kolos' base would draw on about 70 MW of power. However, within a decade, the firm intends to have added enough computer server modules to draw on more than 1,000 MW.

Amazon's data processing division is already thought to draw on about 1,000 MW of power in Ashburn, Virginia, however its servers are spread across the area rather than being clustered together into a single centre. Facebook has operated its own large data centre about 239 miles from Ballangen at Lulea, Sweden since 2013. But it is limited to 120 MW. Other giant single-site data centres also tend to use less than 200 MW.

Cheap energy
When complete, the Ballangen development is set to cover 600,000 sq m and stretch over four storeys. That is a bigger area than today's record-holder - a facility in Langfang, China - but slightly smaller than the final plan for a data centre still-in-development in Nevada. The Norwegian enterprise should benefit from the fact that large amounts of fibre optic cable were laid in the past alongside a railway built to transport mined iron ore to Sweden.

In more recent times, the EU and Norwegian government have invested in building large dams for hydroelectric projects. There are also several wind farms nearby. "It's quite literally the lowest power cost in Europe - and 100% of the power is renewable on one of the most stable grids in the world," Kolos' co-chief executive Mark Robinson said in an interview with the BBC.

"It's in a region of the planet that is naturally cool and has ideal humidity, so we can keep servers cool without having to artificially chill them," he added. There is also unlimited access to fresh, clean cool water as a secondary chilling source.

The major cloud infrastructure service providers - including Amazon, Microsoft and Google - have repeatedly cut their prices over recent years, putting pressure on other data centre operators. Tech consultancy Gartner says this has meant private endeavours have needed to seek scale of their own in order to keep their prices competitive.