Dilemma for New Swedish Data Centre Earthing

With the plan set for 20 new large scale data centres to be built in Sweden by the year 2020, electrical earthing issues could potentially cause disastrous consequences.

It seems that Sweden is aiming to become a global data centre hub. It has excellent facilities, infrastructure and the naturally cool climate means that less financial investment is needed for cooling. So, 20 new large scale data centres in 5 and a half years … that’s roughly 4 a year … and if each facility takes on average a year to build … well, it’s going to be a busy time in Sweden!

Many Benefits

In the medium term, employment will rise, especially in the construction industry. Not only that, but there may be technological advancements, improvements in efficiency and greater overseas investment into the country which would boost the already buoyant economy.

Many plots of land have already been allocated to data centre development and the venture is under way. Although some will argue that they are eye-sores which are destroying the countryside, the global demand for data centres is growing and a hub would be beneficial on a world scale. With today’s environmentally conscious approach, I am sure there will be plans to replant trees or protect natural habitats.

Potential Dangers for Data Centre Earthing

If new data centres are located close to existing or other facilities, technically secure data centre earthing design must be a key consideration.

Facebook's proposed Osterund Data Centres Site Sweden - may cause data centre earthing issuesGenerally, Nordic geology is simple - for the most part, it is made of igneous rock such as granite. As a result, the soil structure has a high resistivity which causes it to become a poor conductor of electrical energy. Consequently, in the case of an earth fault; the rise of earth potential is likely to be much greater so energy from the fault appears to get trapped in the upper layer and as a result, extends out further from the epicentre which can put more lives at risk.

Therefore, if data centres are to be built close together and a fault were to occur on one, the returning earth current could flow into the other and energise buried systems and/or conductive structures such as ‘street furniture’ – e.g. lighting columns, shelters, bollards, or other earth systems.  Therefore, without adequate study and measures in place, the very real hazard of electrocution exists as well as other surrounding systems becoming adversely effected!

Amongst fears of close proximity as well as other factors, Facebook decided against their proposed Osterund data centre site, as seen in the picture. Instead they built Lulea - a huge 120MW data centre driven by 100% renewable energy generated from a nearby hydroelectric station.

What Can Be Done - To Avoid Data Centre Earthing Dangers?

To ensure ALL that come into contact with the data centre (staff or otherwise) are not at risk, it is critical that the data centre earthing is designed and installed properly. Estimates and uncertainty have no place in Nordic earthing.

Local utilities have begun to realise this issue and now recommend that computer software modelling is used to inform firms exactly where the energy from a fault will return to, its path, magnitude and what elements will become energised along its route. This not only provides companies with money saving information by ‘right-sizing’ arrangements avoiding costly over or under engineering but also could save the lives of staff, visitors or nearby general public.

A Data Centre Earthing Consultant You Can Trust

GreyMatters is 1 of only 4 companies in Europe to be certified and accredited to use industry standard CDEGS 3D electromagnetic field modelling software and has over 20 years industry experience with Data Centre Earthing across the globe. Read a recent case study on Data Centre Earthing

If you are concerned about your data centre earthing or would like more information on data centre earthing then contact us via our contact page, or simply use the "Need Advice" widget below, to schedule a free 30 minute phone call. contact us arrow

Written by: Niall Cardwell, GreyMatters


Featured Image:  Earthing Wires, Verne Global
Blog Image:  Facebook’s proposed Osterund Data Centre site, Sweden, Data Centre Earthing Dynamics


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