Google to go offshore


SAVING ENERGY: GOOGLE AND Morgan Stanley are pursuing separate plans to build seaborne data centres that reduce the financial and environmental costs of powering the internet, says JOHN REYNOLDS

Data centres typically use as much energy as a small town due to the power required to run the dozens of computer servers they house and to keep them cool. The energy- intensive requirements of data centres are partly responsible for the information and computer technology sector having a global carbon footprint similar to that of aviation.

Operating them at sea would cut construction and running costs because data centres incur huge annual electricity bills and are usually located close to cities, costing hundreds of millions of euro to build.

Google filed for a patent this year for a ship-based data centre which would be powered by tide- or wave-generated electricity and cooled by sea water using a heat exchanger.

It would sit offshore and reside in 50 to 70 metres of water. During adverse weather, the ship would disconnect from its power hub and make for a safe harbour where it could be powered conventionally.

Meanwhile, investment bank Morgan Stanley is one of a number of investors who will fund an off-grid tidal-powered data centre off the Scottish coast. Working with tidal power firm Atlantic Resources Corporation, in which it holds a majority stake, it intends to build a data centre connected to a group of tidal turbines. It will be built by 2011, at a cost of £250 million (about €317 million), the bank says.