ILI (Renewable Energy) in conjunction with Green Cat Renewables recently submitted a planning application for a six turbine wind farm with a twist at Blair Farm in East Ayrshire. The twist being that submitted jointly with the wind farm application is an application for a data centre proposed to be situated next to wind farm.
Data centres are extremely popular with large technology based companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon as storage facilities for amongst other things your cloud based photos and songs. These centres are extremely energy hungry as they need to prevent the technology from overheating whilst at the same time maintain service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Globally in 2013, data centres consumed approximately 30 gigawatts of energy. This figure is expected to have trebled by 2016.
This has led these environmentally conscious multi-national companies to enter power purchase agreements with renewable energy producers to ensure that the electricity used by their centres comes from renewable sources. However the difference with the proposed Blair Farm development is that it will take its energy supply directly from the wind farm therefore guaranteeing up to 40% the energy it uses will be renewable.
At present Google uses renewable energy to power 35% of its operations through either power purchase agreements or their own projects however they have yet to directly link a renewable energy development to one of their data centres. Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon – whose cloud based web services count amongst others Netflix as a customer – have similar agreements in place to purchase renewable energy from various providers.
We live in a time when the global economy is highly dependent on efficient digital information systems with robust data security. The demand for reliable IT infrastructure around the world has been crucial in the massive expansion of data centre facilities globally.
Scotland has been earmarked for some time as an excellent potential location for data centres however currently only has five in operation. The country has a large highly qualified pool of IT professionals plus it is on average 2 degrees cooler that other major European data centres locations meaning less energy is required to keep conditions stable. Also Scotland is viewed as a low security risk for both terrorist activity and potential environmental crises plus the country is already very renewable friendly with the government target of 100% of electricity supply from renewable sources by 2020 well on track to be achieved. Government support is also available for data centre projects.
The location of the Blair Farm development is close to the existing Whitelees wind farm and is next to the M77 motorway giving it excellent transport links to Glasgow and beyond. When operational it is expected that the data centre will accommodate up to 21 full time staff and more via contractors.
The need for this type of IT infrastructure coupled with its high demand for energy points towards the type of application submitted by ILI (Renewable Energy) as a logical solution. However the application is at present unique. Google cited the reason they don’t build clean energy sources right on their data centres is that “the places with the best renewable power potential are generally not the same places where a data centre can most efficiently and reliably serve its users.”
However with Scotland being a relatively small country it can offer locations with excellent renewable power potential that in turn are close enough to the existing infrastructure to accommodate efficient data centres. In the future the demand for digital services will continue to grow as will the need to supply the sources with vast amounts energy. The clean energy solution presented by ILI Renewable Energy and Green Cat Renewables is one we can all embrace.