Greetings from Lerwick, Shetlands: Colocation & Data Center Real Estate

Yes you read it right, Lerwick Shetland’s capital is set to be the location for the UK’s most northerly data center. Shetland Islands Council and developer Alchemy Plus has signed an exclusive Memorandum of Understanding and unveil plans to build a state-of-the-art 10,000 square foot data center powered entirely by renewable  energy and using a powerful high-speed fibre optic telecommunication link. Two Lerwick sites – at Black Hill Industrial Estate and Port Business Park – are currently being considered for the data center location.

This proposed  £12 million project must lead to a 1.1 PUE data center where 100% of its primary power comes from a renewable energy power source and will utilize the existing grid for a secondary back up supply. The 100% renewable energy power source will be based on wind and hydrogen technologies and access to a highly effective and well established district waste heating scheme.

According to Alchemy “Shetland is one of the most promising locations in the world for the development of renewable energy. Currently up to 20% of the islands’ electricity demand is generated by Burradale wind farm and other turbines. Permission is being sought by Viking Energy and a subsidiary of Scottish and Southern Energy for a new wind farm generating up to 540 Megawatts of power. A project on Unst has carried out research on the use of wind power to create hydrogen and wave and tidal energy developments may follow in the next few years.”

After Iceland yet another place with a cool climate and abundant supply of wind energy (instead of geothermal) that makes it a prime spot for IT data centers. This makes me thinking will the Faroes or Jan Mayen be next? I must have an atlas …



Of course the climate and alternative energy supply is very tempting but there is also Mother Nature that should be taken in to account when placing a data center. A lot of the requirements are focussing on the “internal” things of a DC. But what about the quality of the DC geographical surrounding? Yes environmental risk is everywhere but as stated in a recent blog entry the economic value that data centers are representing is huge. This makes it very interesting how these (remote) data center sites are selected. And here we are not only talking about the physical threat by Mother Nature of the data center itself, but also of the collateral damage. For example in the case of the Iceland volcano it was not only the physical aspects of the volcanic ash, “Can the roof collapse?” , “Has the fine dust penetrated the outside air filtration?” or “Are cooling towers clogged with ash sludge?”. There were also the logistic problems it created, “How to get people and equipment to and from the DC?”. This kind of issues is of course the same for hurricanes, earthquakes etc.

From my point of view an GIS (geographical information system) app could be very helpful in making geographical site analysis. Being curious I raised this question (“Is any one familiar with studies or the practical use of an GIS (geographical information system) for selecting data center locations?”) on several discussion groups but the response was low. Although there was a telecom operator using  ArcGIS Desktop to identify potential region to locate new data centers facilities. And someone else suggested  the use of Google Earth and stated that “It would be nice if there were FEMA overlays in Google Earth”.

A lot of times the statement is “You have to have a contingency plan for your information systems”. But what about a contingency plan for critical IT infrastructure (read data center)? Very nice that the data center is still standing after a growl of Mother Nature but if in the nearby surroundings the energy supply, roads or airports are destroyed or can’t be used what then? The chance that this happens can be small but the impact is huge. Still intrigued if and how this geographical analysis is be done.

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