Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Google set to follow Facebook’s footsteps and open Swedish data centre

Report: Mega industrial park, where 100MW HV power line is being built, readies for the arrival of large international web company.

Google is getting ready to follow Facebook’s footsteps and build a large data centre campus in Sweden, according to local media reports.

A large industrial site is currently being planned for Horndal, located in the Avesta Municipality, 140 Km from capital Stockholm.

On this site, a new 100MW high voltage (HV) line is being planned by provider Vattenfall and a large data centre campus, belonging to an international web player, has also been confirmed by Swedish media.

In addition, a switchboard connection to the main local power line in Krångede, North of Horndal, is also being built by national provider SVK.

Currently, the national grid provider has a station in Horndal, just outside the land where the industrial park is set to be built. This station will be connected to another station in Ljusdal and then to Krångede.

Now, news outlet DT cites sources which have told the publication that Google was in fact the international web player readying to set bases at the Horndal campus and generate up to 300 permanent jobs.

The publication has also obtained documents from the Avesta council which reveal the area is preparing to host the “so-called electricity-intensive business”.

In a trail of more than 40 emails obtained by DT, the council and other parties involved in the discussions surrounding the industrial park and the data centre build used the code word “Yellow” which is believed to refer to the company building the data centre.

Farshad Shadloo, information officer at Google in Scandinavia, said: “We do not comment on rumours or speculation.”

Google currently runs a data centre in the Nordic region located in Summa Mill, Finland.

Speaking to Data Economy, Avesta Councillor Lars Isacsson, said: “I cannot confirm which company we are selling the land to. But it is a large international company that is to build a data centre. For the municipality and the region this is huge.

“This will create new jobs, and increasing interest from other companies to establish themselves in the municipality. And give faith in the future and raise confidence and self esteem to us.”


Municipality acquired over 1 million sqm of land

The Avesta municipality has acquired 1,050,000 sqm of land for the industrial park which extend along the Highway 68 for SEK 15.5m ($1.65m as of December, 16).

Recently, part of this land was sold to a data centre operator. The municipality told Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT that it will not disclose any details about the transaction, including the name of those involved until March 2017.

The piece of land is currently a forest, populated with hundreds of trees. The construction of the data centre will require a large majority of the trees to be cut down.

Last year, Apple was faced with protests against its data centre in Athenry, Ireland, which is planned to be built on a piece of land of 500-acre which is currently a forest.

22 months after, Apple is still waiting to hear from local authorities if it can build the $1bn data centre at the Derrydonnell Forest.

However, locals in Sweden have played down the prospect of eventual resistance against the build of data centre.

Samuel Viklund, who runs the Horndals swimming and camping club on the other side of the motorway which will separate his business from the industrial park, said he and the business “are not concerned about it”.

He told Data Economy: “We are just looking forward to what opportunities it might bring here. Since it is said to be a rather clean, silent operation placed a few hundred meters behind the forest, I do not think this will have any negative effects whatsoever.

“At first it will benefit the local community, what ever it might be built, because local contractors could get involved in many ways.

“In the long term, if it is a data centre, it might not bring too many job opportunities to the village but if it is Google, it will definitely place Horndal on the map once more.

“This might just be the start of something good. If Google want to build here, who is next?”

Speaking to SVT, Councillor Isacsson said the municipality developed a detailed plan that allows light industry, non-polluting, non-noisy but of high intensity.

He also said that “it is great be part of the continuing industrial development that gives a future to the community and I think it will be great not only for Avesta, but for Sweden as a whole”.

Also speaking to SVT’s Report programme, Lars Mikael Damberg, Minister for Enterprise, said: “This [development] is very important; it is a big investment; it is part of Sweden’s basic industries where Sweden has all the conditions to draw more investments.

“We now have the same tax on the data centre space that we have on other industries where the direct tax on electricity is not so high.

“The large investments made in Sweden are creating jobs and these are part of the digital infrastructure that is becoming ever more important.”


Power for high-intensive businesses is on its way


SVK’s plan to strenghten the connectivity between Krångede, Ljusdal and Horndal. Source: SVK

One of the developments being planned at the site is a 100MW HV line by Swedish government owned power company Vattenfall.

In a press statement issued to Data Economy, Vattenfall said: “Vattenfall Distribution has connection duty to all customers and have had a dialogue with the municipality of the planning process, which has been implemented by the municipality.

“It is correct that we have investigated a connected load of up to 100 MW. Do we get a request for connection it looks favourably out to implement a fast connection.

“In the current situation, we cannot give any more comments on this issue.”

Data centres and the power industry in Sweden recently saw the government cut electricity tax rates charged to data centre operators by 97% in a move to try and attract more data centre investment to Sweden.

The decrease lowers the electricity tax rate for to 0.005 SEK or USD 0.00054 per kWh, from today’s 0.194-0.295 SEK or USD 0.02-0.03 per kWh.

The reduction is set to come into effect on January 1, 2017 after being under political scrutiny for several years.

Philip Low, chairman of consulting company BroadGroup which has organised an event in Stockholm in October this year with Nordic data centre leaders, said the potential move by Google would help to further strength the region’s position in the data centre global map.

He told Data Economy: “If this report about Google is correct, then it represents a big win for Sweden who remain very competitive in terms of connectivity.

“Both energy tax and renewable energy resources will continue to drive interest in both Sweden and Norway in the coming years.”

Data Economy has contacted Google, the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure’s Office, SVK, Business Sweden and the responsible for the industrial park project, however, at the time of publishing none of the parties where able to provide an answer.



Google, Sweden and Nordics set for growth

Google's current and future cloud footprint. Source: Google

Google’s current and future cloud footprint. Source: Google

If Google is confirmed to be the company projecting a data centre in Horndal, it will be joining the likes of Facebook, which has opened a 290,000 sqf facility in Luleå, in the North of Sweden, in 2011.

The Nordic region as a whole is set to benefit from significant data centre investment over the next three years, of an estimated €3.3bn with more than 49% derived from overseas internet players such as Google and Facebook.

Findings from a BroadGroup’s report “Data Centre Nordics”, covering Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, and 117 operators, predicts that the market in third party data centres will increase by almost two and a half times in m2 space and triple MW power requirements from current levels by the end of 2017.

Today, Sweden is home to nearly one third of all 171 data centres in the Nordics. With 54 facilities, it is ahead of Denmark (46), Norway (40), Finland (25) and Iceland (6).

According to the Data Centre Risk 2016 report by Cusham & Wakefield, Sweden is the fifth most secure country in the world for data centre investment.

However, Iceland (first), Norway (second), Switzerland (third) and Finland (fourth) have been ranked as the safest nations for data centre investment.

As for Google, the web giant currently operates eight data centres across North America and Europe.

In October, the company announced it will add new locations to its portfolio with data centres being built and expanded in Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney, Northern Virginia, São Paulo, London, Finland and Frankfurt.