Your devices aren’t the only objects using energy when surfing on the internet. Servers packed in data centers require a lot of energy for people to be able to stream their favorite shows and run their upcoming fantasy football draft. Norway will soon hold the largest data center in the world, and it will be run fully on renewable energy.
Kolos, an American-Norwegian company, will be behind the creation of the new data center in collaboration with HDR. It’s in a location that provides the best cooling method for the new data center -- a fjord above the Arctic circle. What is a fjord? A deep entrance to the sea that’s located between high cliffs and is surrounded by land, providing an extremely cool environment for the data center to run.
The data center sits in Ballengen, Norway, at four stories tall 600,000 square meters, and it’s integrated into a beautiful environment surrounded by mountains and water. It’ll be fueled by a neighboring hydropower and will be servicing many areas in Europe and along parts of United States’ East Coast. It’s expected to be running on full power in the next 10 years.
“It’s an honor to be part of such a visionary project,” said Doug Wignall, HDR’s President of Architecture, in a press release. “Kolos has a deep appreciation for design thinking and the power of design to transform the data center sector. With this project they are making a strong statement that in addition to being highly sustainable and technically sophisticated, data centers can also be inspiring pieces of art that are integrated with the community and natural surroundings.”
There’s a number of data centers that have opened among the Scandanavian countries. Two large Facebook companies are located in Sweden and Denmark, two Apple centers are in Denmark alone. All of these data centers can use a whopping 100 to 200 megawatts alone, but at the site where the largest is located at, will feature up to a gigawatt of power usage. Luckily, the local hydropower plant can be scaled up to two gigawatts in the area.
Another unique aspect of the building is its entire design, which HDR compares to “a glacier’s movement.” Data halls are along the center spine and covered with green roofs. Near the water, “the spine emerges as a public element clad in copper, a reference to the area’s copper mining history.” The multiple buildings along the spine are on top of old mines where copper and zinc were farmed out, and this keeps the heritage of the town alive.
Mark Robinson, one of Kolos’ CEOs, explained the design process to Engineering News-Record. Buildings are shaped around the layout of their machinery, and everything is located in a remote section of town that doesn’t bother the residents. “The conical shape we used focuses the sound downward and not into the air. It’s a good sound barrier and would block the noise the data center creates from the residents’ homes.”
Norway’s new data center will open next year. It's both massive and attractive as it meshes well with the community. With so much hydropower available, it has room to expand over many years. It provides a great example on how to build sustainable data centers in the future by taking advantage of the environment surrounding it.
Tesla seeks to outdo its successful South Australian battery project by submitting a bid to a utility company in the US for what will be the biggest battery backup facility in the world.
Shipping containers have found another sustainable use: university buildings. Copying its "Insta House" design, MB Architecture has provided Bard College in New York with a media lab that can open up and be used for other needs.
Styrofoam can be very convenient, but it's a burden on the environment and it's hard to recycle. One of the most promising alternatives is nanowood, which retains a lot of properties but is stronger and biodegradable.
With a far lower price than pre-fabs or traditional house-building, this printer forms homes in concrete on site, according to the plans it's programmed to follow. this could completely change the game for underserved populations struggling to find safe, permanent homes.