Green data centers: digging up the mountains

A number of data center initiatives emerged in Norway as a result of CERN’s plans to locate its LHC/WLCg Tier-0 compute and storage equipment at a green and cost-efficient location in one of its members countries by 2014.

With the Norwegian market representing some 50.000 m2 floor space in total, it is clear that the European market must be the main market place. The annual growth is estimated by Gartner group to 250.000 m2 for the 17 largest cities in Europe.

In the Nordic countries with cool temperatures, cool water and an electricity generation that is nearly entirely from renewable sources, the carbon footprint of data centres and compute equipment isn’t an issue. This in contrast in with countries that have another climate and use non-renewable energy sources with large greenhouse emissions due to this use of fossil energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas. But “It is not enough to have a hole in the mountains or a vacant room. Expertise and capital are very important factors”  according to project manager Maria Dupont of ICT-Norge.

Currently there are three very similar initiatives in constructing large data centers inside mountains. Here a short summary based on the latest issue of META a magazine about the e-infrastructure for computational science in Norway.

Rjukan Mountain Hall – RMH

Rjukan Mountain Hall is a greenfield company set up to provide data center facilities from the Rjukan area. A twin-site datacenter is planned, providing 60 000 m2 data floor space. Phase 1 of the datacenter development will include all groundwork, and provide the market with 7 000 m2 data floor space. RMH is planned ready for operation 2H2013

The base design will support an average power density of 3 kW/m2. With an average footprint per rack of 3 m2, the design supports an average power density per rack of 9 kW/rack. Based on individual customer needs, the design can modulary be adjusted to support a power density per rack around 25 kW. The cooling design will vary with the actual power density per module, and will be a combination of air- and water based solutions.

Tinn Energi  AS and adjacent utility companies have together built a local and regional fiber infrastructure, offering carrier neutral fiber communication (DWDM with multiple 10 gbps and 100 gbps links) between Rjukan and Oslo. Stage one offers access to PoPs in Oslo, where several multinational providers are present, providing further access to the home market and Europe. During 2011 another link to the west coast of Norway will be ready, offering capacity to UK (Kårstø), as well as a link to Denmark via Kristiansand. The power design will support a total capacity of 200 MW for a fully loaded data center. The physical location of each of the two sites will be situated next-door to a local hydro power plant, ensuring minimal losses in power transportation.

Also another data center project has seen the light at Rjukan. But this one is outside the mountain. Company Rjukan Technology Center, hopes to create a data-center in the old industrial park to the Norwegian Hydro.

Green Mountain

Two years ago NATO removed the torpedoes and mines that were stored in the mountain halls constructed for storage of ammunition for the North Atlantic fleet in Rennesøy, just outside Stavanger.  Now Green Mountain Data Centre AS (GMDC), which is owned by Smedvig Group, is now in the start-up phase. The actual construction work at the site has already started and the data center is expected to be operational in the second quarter of 2012.

Three buildings of 3.730 m2 side by side inside the mountain – all interconnected by wide pass-ways in both ends of the halls were constructed in 1964 and another three halls, 8.500 m2, were finalised in 1994. The cooling system will be designed as an S+S system drawing water from about 100 m depth, in the first stage prepared for a capacity up to 25 MW. The heat from the data halls will be removed over titanium heat exchangers. Communications is arranged through multiple high quality fibre connections to POPs in Stavanger area by Lyse Power.

Green Mountain data center

Green Mountain

Lefdal Mine Project

This Lefdal mine initiative tries to explotate the mine in Lefdal, which is the world’s largest underground olivine mine. It is located in the region Sogn og Fjordane between Måløy and Nordfjordeid. The mine is situated by a deep, cold fjord with a stable and ample supply of Co2-neutral energy (hydroelectric and wind). For Local Host this was the reason to take the opportunity to invite a selection of enterprises to contribute with economic and/or technological expertise in the pilot study “Data storage in Lefdal Gruve”. The pilot study is to explore the feasibility of establishing an eco-friendly datacenter with great capacity which is able to meet the need for data centers both nationally and internationally in the olivine mine of Lefdal. The project is funded by the Ministry of Governmental Administration and Reform and Innovation Norway and is a follow-up of ICT Norway’s report “Cloud and Fjords”. See also the blog entry  ‘Underground green datacenter city‘.

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