SWEDEN A Facebook data centre in Luleå is just the beginning. Now Vattenfall is hoping that more large data centres will help increase demand for electricity.

Over the past ten years, industrial output in Scandinavia has fallen due to the economic downturn and decreased costs in the low-wage economies. But hopefully this shortfall will now be offset by a brand new sector – large data centres.

The most obvious example of this in Sweden is Facebook’s data centre in Luleå, where a hall houses thousands of servers. Facebook plans to build three similar halls.

Facebook’s data centre is unique in terms of its size but other companies have followed suit, for example Google, which has established a data centre in Finland.

“Scandinavia is perfect for this type of business in many ways. We have a high-quality electricity network, a good fibre infrastructure, a stable electricity supply and, last but not least, we have a high proportion of renewable energy, which was one of the main reasons Facebook based itself here,” says Oskar Almén, who is responsible for market strategies within Business Development Nordic. “Also, the cool climate makes cooling the equipment cheaper. A data company that chooses Luleå over North Carolina in the USA, where electricity is fossil-fuel generated, is certainly doing its bit for the environment.”

Another customer example is the Swedish company KnC Miner, which, within the space of a year, has grown from almost nothing to signing a contract recently with ­Vattenfall for its new data centre in Boden.

“We first had contact with the company back in the autumn when they urgently needed 10 MW of capacity for their new data centre,” says Johan Axelsson from Business Sales Nordic. “Normally we are used to pretty long lead times for big establishments such as this, but this company was up and running with industrial capacity in just a couple of months. Such situations really urge us to be fast and innovative.”

Netflix, YouTube, online gaming and utility software like SAP are all services that require ever more data capacity from server halls. Now ­Vattenfall hopes to attract more data companies to base themselves in Scandinavia. The target is for the sector to grow by 5 TWh in Scandinavia by 2017, which corresponds to a quarter of Vattenfall’s total hydro power generation in Sweden.

Both Facebook and KnC Miner are Vattenfall customers, but most important is that this type of major user is actually entering the market, as it may reduce the electricity surplus in Scandinavia and increase market prices.

“We think that this sector will have significant importance for us in just a few years,” Almén says.

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