Could Scotland Achieve Data Centre Independence?

Last week the man behind Glenrothes’ proposed new data centre, Queensway, told me it would be Britain’s first data centre to use only locally-generated renewable energy. However since it is in Scotland, I suppose there is a possibility that it might not be in the United Kingdom of Great Britain for much longer if Scotland votes for independence in the referendum later this year.

Alex O’Connor, whose construction firm AOC is building the site, kept studiously off the subject of Scottish independence, but he also implied that the 8MW site whose planning application went to Fife Council last week would be a major part of Scotland’s digital infrastructure.

Biggest in Scotland?

O’Connor claimed that Queensway (when it is built) would be the largest data centre in Scotland – though I think Pulsant might want to challenge that as  it has a 7-hall Tier 3 data centre in Newbridge near Edinburgh, with 90o square metres of colocation space.

Leaving aside that claim, there certainly aren’t many sizeable data centres in Scotland, which begged the question of whether the possibly-independent nation needs more.

Queensway offers more colocation space, and AOC hopes to fill it with a lot of public sector IT. Fife Council welcomed its application and is apparently considering relocating its IT there, where it benefits from renewable energy, while local universities such as St Andrews are apparently crying out for more data centre space that doesn’t strain their existing electricity budgets.

Since the Snowden revelations about government spying, data still crosses borders easily, but there has been an upsurge of interest in keeping data within national borders. That’s one of the aims of Brazil’s so-called Internet Constitution, passed by the country’s senate earlier this week.

So increasing the data centre capacity within Scotland’s borders could turn out to be a good move if the Referendum results in an independent Scotland. The fact that the country already has a measure of local government support may also push public sector business its way, in preference to sites in England.

Air and power

The Scottish location ensures a climate favourable to data centres cooled by the outside air and the industrial site has plenty of infrastructure built to server a now-declining giant paper mill, along with a new 65MW biomass powered combined heat and power (CHP) plant that will create electricity and hot water from wood waste sourced from surrounding industries. The data centre will quote (projected) PUE efficiency figures of less than 1.15 – so it will have be parsimonious with the power.

So it plays well to caricatures of careful, canny Scots, whether or not they leave the United Kingdom and regardless of how far the Snowden revelations push the industry to locally-based data centres.

This article is based on one published at Green Data Center News.

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Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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