04/07/2018 – News / Power / Sustainability / Green / Data Centre / ABB / Norway / Europe

ABB solutions power Europe’s greenest data centre in Norway

There was a time when the mineral olivine used to be excavated for industrial purposes, like making steel. Now, that steel is coming back underground to house a data centre. Powered by ABB technology, Lefdal in Norway plans to become one of Europe’s largest data centres, yet with the smallest environmental footprint.


The Lefdal Mine data center, operational since May 2017, is built 150 metres into a mountain in what was formerly an underground mine for excavating olivine (also known as the gemstone peridot) – a green, high-density mineral used in steel production. Located on Norway’s west coast, between Måløy and Nordfjordeid, the six-storey mountain hall facility sets a new standard for the data centre industry.


The massive data centre is powered exclusively by renewable energy produced locally, while being cooled by water from a nearby fjord, which is the second largest in the country and has four glaciers connected to it. ABB has supplied the critical power infrastructure, which provides clean energy generated by four glacial hydropower stations and two windmill farms with a combined capacity in excess of 300 MW.


Powering a data giant


Data centres are among the biggest consumers of energy. Yet Lefdal Mine is remarkably energy efficient, because it uses cold water from the 565-metre-deep fjord as a coolant. The data centre is located below sea level, eliminating the need for expensive high-capacity pumps to lift the fjord’s water to the cooling system’s heat exchangers. The result is that the facility’s cooling solution will have power usage effectiveness (PUE) – the industry standard for energy efficiency – of between 1.08 and 1.15 for a 5kW rack, making it among the greenest data centres in the world with 30-40-per-cent energy savings over traditional facilities.


“Cooling is crucial, because these servers generate huge amounts of heat. Because water cooling is so efficient, these server containers can run up to 50kW of power, where you would normally expect just 7-8 kW with traditional air cooling,” said Mats Andersson, Marketing Director, Lefdal Mine Datacenter.


Reliability is everything


Data centers today form the backbone of our daily life, meaning that reliability is everything. Maintaining secure operations 24 hours a day is crucial, with redundant systems in place to ensure the data centre is always operational.


To meet the powering challenges due to the physical size of the facility, ABB has built a medium-voltage backbone for the entire facility. To meet any emergency situation, ABB also provides a decentralised UPS (uninterruptible power supply) system, which means that each section inside the data centre has its own UPS installation. If there is a problem with the grid, the UPS kicks in within a couple of milliseconds and ensures reliable power supply until the backup generators come online.


ABB has been an integral partner from the beginning of the project, providing tailored power supply solutions and extensive knowledge and expertise for such a challenging engineering project. Providing a powering system that can remain reliable as the centre grows – to 200MW from the current 10MW in phases over the next three years – is of particular importance. Once fully completed, Lefdal will be among Europe’s largest data centres.

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