News in Digest: Data centres eating into resources

Google promises its next location, which is again based in southeast Jutland, will be 100 percent sustainable

The US IT giant Google is investing 4.5 billion kroner into building a second data centre – this time in Aabenraa in southeast Jutland, near the location of its first centre in Fredericia, which is due to open in 2019.

The construction of the centre is expected to generate upwards of 1,500 jobs, with another 700 jobs connected, directly or indirectly, to the centre from 2021.

The announcement takes the number of data centres recently announced by IT giants to five. Apple has centres planned for Viborg and Aabenraa, while Facebook is building a centre in Odense. Additionally, IBM opened an innovation centre in Brøndy in 2017, while Amazon Web Services said in September it was “for sure” it will open a data centre in Denmark.

Concerns over heat
Google’s new centre will be 100 percent sustainable and Google has announced it is prepared for further green investments in Denmark. However, this has done little to assuage environmental concerns.

Despite repeated promises from ministers, the only IT giant with concrete plans to utilise surplus heat is Facebook’s data centre in Odense, where 100,000 MWh of energy will be reclaimed – enough for 6,900 homes.

The problem is that the positioning of the centres has mostly been decided on with regards to issues such as stable and cheap electricity, according to Ingeniøren’s research into the co-operation between Invest in Denmark and Apple.

“The really big data centres are being situated where there is excellent access to electricity,” claimed chief analyst Nina Detlefsen from the Danish district heating think-tank Grøn Energi.

District heating has just not been a priority, and there is too little or no focus on what the potential is for getting something out of the surplus heat

Increased consumption
The centres are going to increase Denmark’s power consumption substantially.
The estimated consumption for the centres built by Apple, Facebook and Google in 2030 would be 7.5 Terawatt-hours – the equivalent of the power used by 1.9 million households.

According to Dansk Energi, it will be necessary to build 700 new turbines on land or 200 at sea to provide enough green energy, reports Jyllands-Posten.

Are we on track?
And it’s not as if the country’s energy consumption is in freefall. Over the first nine months of 2018, it fell by just 0.6 percent according to the Energistyrelsen energy agency.

The fall was attributed to a combination of lower wind turbine production, a slight fall in the use of biomass, and increased production of electricity from solar panels.

Looking towards the future, energy will be needed to power the government’s new drive towards 1 million electric or hybrid cars on the road by 2030.

Gas, oil and renewable energy consumption fell by 4.2, 0.8 and 0.4 percent during the first three quarters of 2018, but coal was up by 2.0 percent. Wind power supplied 39 percent of domestic electricity, while solar energy was up 47.2 percent on the average of the last five years.

Worth the hassle?
There is also some doubt about how many jobs will actually be created by these mega-consumers of power. According to Computerworld these centres rarely create more than a few hundred jobs.

In Viborg, not including temporary jobs created during the construction phase, it is estimated that the Apple centre will create around 300 jobs. (CPH POST)