Google announces US$1 billion expansion for Finland data centre

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Over 10 years ago, Google constructed its first data centre facility in Finland and this week, the company announced it will be investing US$1.1 billion to expand the facility. Located nearly 90 miles east of Helinski, in Hamina, the facility cost US$202 million to construct in 2011. Since then, the company has invested nearly $2 billion into the campus. With the expansion, the company hopes to increase its on-site workforce by a quarter to 500 people over the next year and a half as part of the project.  The company did not disclose the timeline or scope of the expansion.

Cause for the expansion

The tech-giant stated that the expansion is aimed at “further unlocking the potential of AI”. The company announced a partnership with Haminan Energia, the city-owned electricity provider. It intends to reuse heat from the data centre to warm nearby homes, public buildings and schools. Reusing heat from the servers is one way to mitigate the effects of the already energy-hungry data centres. The facilities are even more energy-intensive now with the use of AI, which has had effects on the power grid and the environment.

Where Servers Meet Saunas: A Visit to Google's Finland Data Center | WIRED

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More on Google’s AI

In a recent event named Google I/O, the company show cased a revamped search engine with generative Ai and a faster version of its Gemini model. Running and training Artificial Intelligence needs new and more powerful data centers. These have new centers cause a huge strain on the power grid with high electricity demand. Moreover, due to the ack of enough renewable energy sources, some of these facilities have had to rely on fossil fuel power plants.

Alphabet Inc, it’s parent company, is likely to acquire wind power in Finland for the data centers. Under long term contracts, the company could benefit from the country’s increased wind power capacity. In the last two years, its capacity has risen by 75% to 5,677 MW. Furthermore, on windy days, statistics have shown a plummet in prices to the negative. This has incentivized severa companies to operate their data centres in Nordic countries. The region has a cooler climate, many tax breaks and abundant availability of renewable power.

Denise at the Dalles

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Data Centres in Nordic Countries

Specifically, Sweden and Norway have had a significant increase in hosing such companies. However, experts argue that Nordic countries should use their renewable power for products such as green steel that could leave higher surplus value in the countries. The Hamina data centre in Finland already operates on 97% carbon-free energy. This means that the heat it provides to Haminan Energia will also be considered a mostly clean source of energy.

This is the first project of its kind for Google, which says it’s providing the heat free of cost. Google’s been reusing that heat for its own offices on-site for nearly a decade. As the data center expands and uses more energy, Google plans to share that heat to meet 80 percent of annual heating demand for the local district.