Datacentre will be powered mainly by renewables and handle all data processing from Europe, the Middle East and Africa
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 27 October 2011 15.29 BST
Facebook is building a ‘green’ datacentre in Sweden, the social networking giant’s first datacentre outside the US.
The company said on Thursday that it had picked the northern Swedish city of Lulea, just 100km south of the Arctic Circle, because of its access to renewable energy and the cold climate that is crucial for keeping the servers cool.
The centre will be the largest of its kind in Europe, and the northernmost of this magnitude on earth. It will handle all data processing from Europe, the Middle East and Africa and serve millions of the site’s 800m users. It will cover 30,000 sq m – about the size of 11 football pitches – and be fully packed with data servers.
“It is our first data centre to draw its power primarily from renewables, and it features design evolutions like a 70% reduction in our reliance on backup generators,” a Facebook spokesman said. The facility – the construction of which will begin immediately – is supposed to lighten Facebook’s environmental footprint.
“This is a great step forward”, said Casey Harrell, Greenpeace IT analyst. “With the IT sector – one of the fastest growing consumers of electricity in the world – Facebook’s taking leadership on renewable energy could help determine whether we have a dirty ‘cloud’ or not.”
Facebook said it had looked at more than 100 sites in Europe, including 40 in Sweden. Lulea, a small town of 74,000 inhabitants, has Europe’s cheapest electricity prices because of its abundant hydroelectric power resources.
Tom Furlong, Facebook’s director of site operations, said: “We concluded that 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.”
Each of Facebook’s US datacentres is estimated to use the same amount of electricity as 30,000 US homes. Energy consumption of warehouses run by companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, is among the fastest growing sources of global electricity demand. In the US, which hosts approximately 40% of the world’s datacentre servers, their electricity consumption increased by nearly 40% during the economic downturn of 2007-2010.
In April 2011, Greenpeace said in its How Dirty is Your Data? report that 53.2% of Facebook’s electricity was generated by coal . An Unfriend Coal campaign on Facebook, launched by the green group 20 months ago, has gathered more than 700,000 supporters.
Greeenpeace also called on Facebook on Thursday to “state a public preference for siting its new datacentre infrastructure in locations where they can be significantly powered by clean renewable energy. This will send a important signal to IT companies and electricity providers that want to compete for future Facebook business.”