Major Scottish data centre to rely on renewable energy

Plans to build a data centre which relies solely on renewable energy have been submitted to Scottish authorities, though claims that it will be the first '100 percent green' data centre in the UK have been called into question.

The application for a 75,000 square foot data centre facility in Queensway Business Park in Glenrothes, Fife, has now been filed by data centre provider AOC Group, as part of a major £40 million project.

The Queensway data centre will be powered using renewable energy drawn from a biomass plant in nearby Markinch, which relies predominantly on wood waste.

The facility will accommodate up to 1,500 server racks, with an installed capacity of approximately eight megawatts. It will be built to standards set by environmental standards set by BREEAM, and will have a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of less than 1.15. PUE is the ratio of the energy taken in by a data centre compared to that actually used by IT.

AOC Group claims that the facility will enable customers to reduce their carbon emissions by 80 percent.

How green is green

However, the claims of being the first ‘green’ data centre have been disputed by industry players.

“There are a lot of 'green' claims out there, so it is difficult to differentiate or stand out from the crowd,” Steve Wallage, managing director and chief analyst at BroadGroup Consulting. “A number of existing data centres claim to run exclusively on renewable power.”

Alex Rabbetts, managing director at data centre provider, MigSolv, added that such claims by operators can be misleading.

“They claim to be the UK's first 100 percent green data centre, but only say they will buy power from a renewable source,” said Alex Rabbetts, managing director at data centre provider, MigSolv. “We have always bought our power from a renewable source and not one that burns biomass and produces CO2[...]yet we don't claim to be 100 percent green."

He added that a data centre to have no impact on the environment would require a PUE of 1.0, which is not considered to be a possiblity.

“Whilst they claim they will have a PUE of less than 1.15, (which is highly improbable unless they intend to build a facility with no lights, no security, no CCTV and no monitoring), the fact that they will be using 0.15 means that they cannot be 100 percent green, since this would require a PUE of unity. As an industry we do ourselves no favours by making such ridiculous marketing claims.”

The Queensway data centre will be carrier neutral and provide routed connections from the UK’s backbone fibre network, being placed near the Joint Academic Network (JANET).

It is expected that the development will result in 50 full-time skilled technology and engineering jobs when completed.

The announcement of the application submission was welcomed by Labour deputy council leader for Fife, Lesley Laird: “News of this development for Glenrothes is particularly welcome not only in terms of the employment opportunities it will bring but in enhancing the council’s plans to regenerate the entire estate," Laird said.

“Officers in the Invest in Fife team and Scottish Development International have worked closely with the company over the past twelve months or so to help identify the best location.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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