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Fjord-cooled data center in Norway claimed to be world's greenest


December 23, 2011

Green Mountain Data Center reuses existing mountain halls

Green Mountain Data Center reuses existing mountain halls

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Upon completion, Norway's Green Mountain Data Center will be the world's greenest server farm - according to its developers, at least. By piping cool water from a nearby fjord into the mountain halls that will house the server racks, its creators hope to eliminate the need for the power-hungry electric chillers that the sadly fjordless majority of the world's data centers require.

Green Mountain Data Center will be housed within a former NATO ammo store inside a mountain on the edge of Boknafjord in Norway's Rogaland county. It will source water directly from the fjord year-round at a temperature of 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius). This method of free cooling will, the developers claim, give Green Mountain a "world class" power usage effectiveness, reducing the cost of operation by up to 30 percent.

Better still, it's claimed that the Green Mountain facility will account for precisely no carbon emissions. For resilience, the electricity supply will be fed directly from three separate power stations, so for the emissions claims to hold true, these would have to be clean energy sources. Hydroelectric power is abundant in Norway, so it seems a perfectly reasonable claim.

The official website goes one further, however, claiming that Green Mountain will have "no carbon footprint." That may be true of its operating life, but putting an eco-pedant hat on for a moment (green, pointy, no man-made fibers), one would have to ask if this applies cradle to grave, allowing for the supply and installation of equipment, any construction work required and the eventual decommissioning of the facility. One suspects not.

Green Mountain will occupy 226,000 sq ft (21,000 sq m) spread over "3 x 2 floors of Mountain Halls", which presumably means three two-story halls. According to Data Centre Knowledge, this will comprise 118,000 sq ft (11,000 sq m) constructed in two stages. The first will see the creation of 75,000 square feet (7,000 sq m) of colocation space; the second 43,000 sq ft (4,000 sq m) of containerized data racks.

It may seem ironic that a nation that already produces so much clean energy should come up with a low-energy data center, but in reality minimizing energy consumption is crucial if renewable energy sources are to play a significant role in a country's energy mix.

Green Mountain Data Center is a joint-development between Smedvig, Lyse Energi AS and ErgoGroup.

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

A nice idea, this setup reduces energy consumption, but if you think a bit further along you will realise that the waste heat has to go somewhere. The water taken from the fjord will presumably be returned after it's done cooling, causing a local increase of temperature of the water in the fjord. Maybe they should build a huge swimming pool and a beach to go with it so the Norwegians can enjoy their summer holiday at home instead of flying south every year?


Actually, there are some data centers in the Helsinki area (Finland), that use sea water for cooling but also send their waste heat to the district heating system to heat nearby buildings. The latest such center (opened in November) produces about 20,000 MWH of heat annually (enough for about 1000 single-family houses).


Seriously. Carbon footprint?


With satellites and fibre optics communication, computing could be done anywhere in the world so why not, for instance, Iceland? Their geothermal-generated power is basically free, so is the cooling derived from the cold weather. Heck, someone there should be able to go really large scale and run all the world\'s server farms out of business.


What isnt said is the stability of the cave, as opposed to iceland with its seismic activity we have come to know through the blockage of airspace. But sourcing power from the ground is a good idea.

Tor Eriksen

re; Grunchy

You have no idea how much bandwidth you\'re talking about.

However if you set your server farm someplace cold enough, you could power it by the \"waste heat\".


I agree with Grunchy, this is the way to go. That assumes of course chips do not get so efficient that cooling cost drastically decrease. That seems to be the way they are thinking of going.... However instead of Iceland, Canada would also be a great spot. They get 95% of their power from hydro, and you go far enough north it is cold almost all of the time. At that point why use water? Just use heat exchangers and fans..... Granted you would still need to remove moisture and dust, but there would be no coolant involved..


Having worked for a time in ex-military underground stores in the UK I can vouch for the perma-coolness of the atmosphere in such places.

But I have to agree with bas, would that increase in water temperature affect life in the fjord? Has an Environmental Impact Study been carried out I wonder?


I don\'t often read the word \'fjordless\'.


Using the waste heat like Bas Described is a great idea. Letting out the waste heat into the environment is not cool.

Haykey Kaariainen
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