Kolos, which is described as a US-Norwegian company, is planning one of the most ambitions data center projects ever.
The company has secured a property in a small Norwegian town, inside the Arctic Circle, for what it envisions will be a 1,000MW data center powered entirely by renewable energy. It will be one of the highest-capacity data center in the world if it reaches even a fraction of that.
Hyper-scale data centers, server farms built by internet giants like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft that are so large they’ve become a class of their own, usually reach several hundred megawatts. Las Vegas-based Switch says its data center campus outside of Reno, Nevada, will eventually reach 650MW, which the company claims will make it the world’s largest data center.
If all goes as planned, the project, together with a data center inside an enormous abandoned mine by a company called Lefdal, will make Norway home to some of the world’s most ambitions and unusual data centers.
The expectation on the municipality’s part is that the project will bring new direct and indirect job opportunities to the area. Ballangen consists of a handful of villages, whose total population was about 2,600 as of 2012. A project of this scale has the potential to entirely transform such a community; Kolos is promising to eventually create up to 3,000 direct jobs.
Similar to many other small municipalities in the Nordics, Bellangen recently lost a major industrial presence many of its residents depended on for employment. It used to be one of the country’s most important mining communities, but the last mine was shuttered in 2003, according to Norway Today. Its population is also aging, with most residents between 55 and 67 years old.
Kolos says it’s raised “several million dollars” for the project from private investors in Norway and that it is working with an American investment bank to secure the rest of the sum it needs, BBC reported. The plan is to start with a 70MW data center.
Kolos signed the land-purchase contract at a meeting with Ballangen residents and officials on March 30.
At the meeting, company CEO Håvard Lillebo emphasized the region’s low-cost clean energy and access to network infrastructure:
“In Northern Norway, we actually have Europe’s cheapest power, which is also 100% renewable. In addition, Ofoten and Ballangen have extremely good access to dark fiber, which is a prerequisite for running data centers.”
Other factors that make the region attractive are its cold climate, which makes data center cooling cheaper, and proximity to the University of Narvik, which can be a source of educated workforce for the future facility.
Ole Petter Fjellstad, the official who signed the contract with Kolos on behalf of the municipality, said he and his colleagues were confident that the agreement was in the community’s best interests after having three lawyers review it.
The contract also has some baked-in safeguards to protect Ballangen’s interests in case something happens to derail the project:
“Kolos also presented several scenarios in which the city of Ballangen would secure the rights to the property in case the data center could not be established. Included was explicit language that stated Kolos would not sell, list, or use the property for other reasons than what was intended, and that Kolos would return the property, free of charge, in case of bankruptcy or if the data center ground is not broken within four years.”