This Data Center Could Become Europe’s Biggest and Most Efficient

Lefdal Mine data center
(Photo: Inside the Norwegian data center. Credit: Lefdal Mine Datacenter)

Norway’s Lefdal Mine data center built nearly 500 feet into a mountain is on a path to becoming the biggest data center in Europe — and have the smallest environmental footprint as well.

Operational since May 2017, the data center is located on Norway’s west coast in a six-story mountain facility. The site was previously an underground mine for excavating a mineral used in steel production, according to ABB, which supplied the data center’s critical power infrastructure.

Four glacial hydropower stations and two wind farms that have a combined capacity exceeding 300 MW generate energy for the Lefdal Mine data center, ABB says. A recent Transparency Market Research report found that tech companies are under increasing pressure to switch to renewables for powering data centers.

In addition to being powered solely by locally produced renewable energy, the Lefdal Mine facility is cooled by water from the country’s second largest fjord. That cooling system makes the data center extremely energy efficient. Since the facility is located below sea level, there’s no need for expensive high-capacity pumps to lift the fjord’s water to the cooling system’s heat exchangers, ABB explained.

As a result, the power usage effectiveness (PUE) readings should be between 1.08 and 1.15 for a 5-kilowatt rack, which is better than the industry average and comparable to some of the most efficient data centers in the world.

“Cooling is crucial, because these servers generate huge amounts of heat,” said Mats Andersson, marketing director for the Lefdal Mine data center. “Because water cooling is so efficient, these server containers can run up to 50 kilowatts of power, where you would normally expect just 7 to 8 kilowatts with traditional air cooling.”

One challenge for ABB has been the data center’s enormous size. The company noted that there are 1.3 million square feet of white space currently available. ABB built a medium-voltage backbone and provides a decentralized uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system. Each section of the facility has its own UPS that kicks in within milliseconds of a grid problem to ensure reliable power until backup generators start up, according to ABB.

Over the next three years, plans call for growing the data center from 10 MW to 200 MW in phases. “When its growth is complete, Lefdal will be among Europe’s largest data centers,” ABB says.

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