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Google's Highly Efficient Finnish Data Centre

In March 2009, Google bought the Summa Mill from Stora Enso, a Finnish paper company. This mill was 60 years old and the tech giant outlined their plans to convert it into a data centre. The initial investment in the project cost €200 million and the first stage was completed in September 2011. A couple thousand employees, working for 50 companies (mostly from the local area), helped contribute to the project.

An additional €150 million was invested in August 2012 for the second phase of the project. This involved restoring and converting the Alvar Aalto-designed machine hall. If everything went to plan, it should have finished earlier this year.

The facility, based in Hamina, Finland, is not only set in beautiful snowy landscape, but is also one of the most advanced and efficient data centres that Google own. It is part of Google Green, the firm’s environmentally friendly department. Google chose to set up in Hamina because of the town’s combination of energy infrastructure, developable land and available workforce.

“When someone tells you we’ve selected the next data centre site and it’s a paper mill built back in 1953, your first reaction might be: ‘What the hell are you talking about?,’” said Joe Kava, Google’s head of data centre operations and construction. “'How am I going to make that a data centre?’ But we were actually excited to learn that the mill used sea water for cooling…. We wanted to make this as a green a facility as possible, and reusing existing infrastructure is a big part of that.”

Overall, Google have committed over $1 billion to renewable energy projects and their data centres use 50% less energy than the typical data centre.

As the data centre is right on the gulf, Google can take raw sea water, run it through a pre-existing tunnel and pump the water through it. The water is then run through heat exchangers and direct exchange is used to dissipate the heat from the server. The water is then taken to another building, mixed with fresh sea water and returned to a temperature close to how it was when removed from the gulf. It’s then finally returned to the sea – totally renewable and with minimal environmental impact from natural sea cooling.

“It makes me feel good,” said Kava. “We don’t do just what we have to do. We look at what’s the right thing to do.”

There are more than 90 employees working on the site: computer technicians, mechanical, electrical and water engineers, facilities and ground maintenance staff, caterers, and security personnel. Google try to hire locally as much as possible.

There is even a conference room and sauna area onsite, available for employees to use whenever they like. Furniture and the whole building were designed by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

It’s great that Google is always looking to innovate and be friendly to the environment. Of course, Google is all about efficiency, but this drive causes them to seek out new and inventive ways to go about their tasks.

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