Largest UK datacentre gets green light

The largest purpose-built datacentre in the UK has been given planning permission, as demand for capacity continues to outstrip supply, according to European datacentre development specialist e-shelter.

Planning permission has been granted for the campus-style datacentre (DC), to be built on a brown field site at Saunderton near High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire. The 50 acre site was formerly used to manufacture machinery used in the production of cigarettes, and according to Phillip Lydford, chief executive of e-shelter UK, is located 35 miles 'as the crow flies' from the City and Docklands (the UK equivalent of Wall Street).

The gross area of the completed facility will be approximately 829,000 sq ft, or put it another way, the equivalent of 11 football pitches.

Of this, e-shelter will provide over 400,000 sq ft of net lettable space to customers. The site is second only to Europe's largest data centre, namely e-shelter's existing facility in Frankfurt.

The Saunderton campus will be built to Tier IV specification and will deliver 100MW (megawatts) of power from two separate grid points from Scottish and Southern Energy, apparently making it the only one of its kind in the UK.

"One of major costs is bringing power to a new site," Lydford told Techworld. "Digging is a huge expense, but it is worth remembering that digging costs the same whether a small or big power supply is laid." There is already one (power) line on site, and the company is digging a second line to nearby Amersham.

"Customers often have a specific power requirement, but in our experience, they consume much less," said Lydford. "We expect this DC to have 30 to 40 megawatt consumption instead of 100 megawatt which will be available."

And according to Lydford, construction will start sometime next year.

"The site is in an area of outstanding natural beauty. When we were seeking planning consent - we came up with imaginative scheme to compliment the Chiltern area. E-shelter is even cladding the buildings to make them blend into the surrounding countryside, and is also using turf roofing (grass on the roof) and heavy landscaping to blend it in further.

According to Lydford, once completed, the DC will be the first in the UK to comply with the gold LEED (Leader in Engineering & Environmental Design) accreditation. This is a certification given by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) for the past decade to encourage the development of environmentally friendly constructions.

Lydford was also clear about the need in the UK for new data centres. "I am not sure there is that much DC building going on," said Lydford. "Actual construction of large data centres is quite limited (in the UK) and demand is outstripping supply. There is an expectation that the imbalance between demand and supply will continue."

He points out that many data centres are coming to the end of their lifecycle, and that recycling a DC, as was recently suggested by Dell, can only be done on a limited basis, because most DCs are ten years old and built in converted warehouses. "Old DC designs are very inefficient, and it is often very expensive to change cooling and power infrastructure," he said.

"Efficiency, call it green or whatever, is a key issue," said Lydford. "There will be no power generation on this site, just more efficient use of power. We believe our approach to large DCs is environmentally kind, as the more data is stored in an efficient manner, the better."

"Big DCs are useful because it allows you to be more efficient," he said. "The analogy I use is that moving 50 people is more efficient in a single bus, rather than in 50 cars. When moving to a large DC, some people are worried because it looks like it has more carbon emissions, but in reality it often provides a more efficient way to meet customer demand every day."

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