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Facebook To Build Sustainable Data Centre In Sweden

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Facebook is set to build a hydroelectric powered data centre just 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle

Facebook is set to construct its first data centre located outside the United States in Lulea, northern Sweden.

The new centre will handle much of the traffic generated by Facebook’s 800 million users and will be the largest of its kind in Europe, covering an area of 84,000 square metres or eleven football pitches.

Cold Air All Year

Construction of the facility will begin immediately and will be completed in three stages. Three server rooms will be built, the first of which should be operational next year and the rest phased in by 2014.

The decision to build the centre in Lulea came after a “rigorous review process” of sites across Europe. According to Tom Furlong, director of Site Operations at Facebook, “Lulea offered the best package of resources – including a suitable climate for environmental cooling, clean power resources, available land, talented regional workforce, and supportive business and corporate environment.”

Located just 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the temperature in Lulea has not exceeded 30 degrees Celcius for more than 24 hours since 1961, meaning that the cold air will be used to cool the servers.

The centre’s energy demands will be met by hydroelectric power generated by the nearby Lulea river, host to several of Sweden’s largest power stations. Sweden has the lowest energy prices in Europe, with the northern region having the lowest in the country, while decades of development in the region’s steel and mining industries has resulted in one of the most stable power grids in the world.

‘Node Pole’ adventure

Karl Petersen, mayor of Lulea, welcomed the social network’s arrival, “Facebook required a certificate verifying that the energy consumed by the facility primarily should come from renewable resources. Thanks to our main Lulea River, we can guarantee this. In fact, Lulea River generates nine percent of Swedish electricity through hydropower.”

Matz Engman, CEO of the local business confederation, hoped that the construction of the data centre would help make the region a major node for data traffic, creating a ‘Node Pole’. “Companies need reliable and cost-efficient energy, stable conditions and natural cooling for modern data centers. It’s an enormous opportunity for the region and the companies who choose to invest here,” he said.

Facebook’s commitment to renewable energy and greater energy efficiency will no doubt go some way to appease Greenpeace, who has criticised the company for its over-reliance on coal, despite it releasing the server specifications of its Oregon data centre, and has called on Facebook to promise to stop using coal-fired electricity by 2012.

Google has also made plans to build a sustainable data centre in Scandinavia, after acquiring a power mill in Hamina, Finland in 2009. The facility, which is due to open later this year, uses sea water to cool its servers.