Green Data Centre To Boost Shetland Broadband

Plans by Scottish authorities to support the building of new data centres in the country have been reinforced by the announcement of a new facility planned for Shetland.

Scottish IT services provider Alchemy Plus announced late last week that it plans to make use of Shetland’s bracing climate by building a new 10,000 square foot data centre in Lerwick. The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the local council and is considering two sites for the new facility – at Black Hill Industrial Estate and Port Business Park.

Alchemy, which is planning another computing facility in Inverness, believes that Shetland’s climate is one of the coolest and most stable in the UK, making it suitable for building a computing facility with a small environmental footprint.

Cool And Stable

According to Alchemy, excess heat from the £12 million centre could potentially be channelled to local homes and businesses. The facility will also make use of recently laid SHEFA-2 high-speed fibre optic link with the UK to improve Internet connectivity for local residents.

“It is proposed that excess heat generated by the 4 Megawatt data centre be fed in to Lerwick’s district heating scheme to allow it to expand and satisfy a backlog of demand,” the company states. “Feasibility work is currently being undertaken into heating scheme integration, as well as the possibility of delivering up to 100 Mbps (megabits per second) ‘fibre to the premises’ (FTTP) to heating system subscribers, to bring high speed connectivity to businesses and homes within the community.”

Although Alchemy Plus is planning another facility in Aberdeen for use by the oil and gas industry, a spokersperson for the company said that the Shetland facility was for the use of a variety of local businesses and by the local council. The facility is expected to generate a number of local jobs initially with expectations that more may follow if the project is succesful. “Once up and running, the data centre will provide a handful of direct jobs but could lead to hundreds more in the longer term, as businesses, home workers and other organisations choose to take advantage of the services it will offer,” the company stated.

Disadvantages Of Being An Island

Commenting on the new facility, Neil Grant, head of Economic Development for Shetland Islands Council said the combination of the data centre and Internet connectivity would help to off-set some of the challenges faced by the remote island community. “As an island, we may be disadvantaged by location and transport costs, however, within the digital sphere these constraints do not apply and our climate and green energy credentials position us very well within a growing international market for data services,” he said.

Responding to possible criticism that no data centre can ever be described as truly “green”, Steve Chisholm, chief executive officer of Alchemy Plus, said the company was striving to make the facility as sustainable as possible. “While many existing and aspiring data centre operators make claims about the “green” credentials of their facilities I truly believe that the Shetland facility will be among the most environmentally sympathetic in the world,” he said. “Without question this development puts Shetland on the world map for any client genuinely committed to protection of the environment.”

The Shetland data centre fits with wider moves by the Scottish government to get a new generation of green and sustainable data centres built in the country. But recent research has found that nearly half of Scottish business don’t think sustainable IT is that important.

The survey of 100 senior Scottish executives, carried out by market researcher Vanson Bourne, found 88 percent were unaware of how much power their IT department uses, making cost and carbon reduction targeting difficult.

Andrew Donoghue

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