Merlin plans carbon neutral, water-free data centres in Europe

09 April 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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The Iberian Peninsula is to become home to a series of new, carbon neutral data centres after Spain's Merlin Properties partnered with Edged Energy.

The move is part of a diversification strategy for Merlin, which is the largest real estate company on the Spanish Stock Exchange. Initially it will see Edged Energy collaborate to build four facilities in Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona (pictured) and Lisbon, that are linked to local renewable energy grids; further, the facilities will consume no water.

However, the long term, multi-phase partnership ultimately aims to build "a major network of ultra-efficient, waterless data centres in the cities", within Merlin's existing land banks.

“You can’t service Spanish 5G markets from the availability zones in the Netherlands or US,” said Merlin co-founder David Brush. “Docusign, Dropbox, Salesforce, Netflix – all those customer uses drive demand for data centres, with Covid accelerating the need.”

He added: "The Iberian region is perfectly positioned to be the principal gateway connecting the digital economies of Europe, North America, South America, Africa, the Middle East and beyond. This world class infrastructure platform will allow cloud and technology companies to better service and connect to a diverse customer base.”

Merlin said each of the initial four data centres will consume zero water for cooling, have a guaranteed Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.15 annually, and use 67% less energy for cooling and overhead systems than average European data centres, which the Uptime Institute estimates to have a PUE of 1.46.

Renewable power will be sourced primarily from Merlin's roof-mounted and ground PV installations, and each facility will have battery backup which will allow for 24/7 renewable energy use and "will dramatically increase its reliability", Merlin said.

The sites in Barcelona and Madrid will support up to a total of 20MW of load each, while the campus sites in Bilbao and Lisbon have the infrastructure to support hyperscale builds in excess of 100MW each (20MW in a first phase).

“Our team has built data centres for the last 25 years, yet these are some of the best sites from a fibre and power perspective that we have seen”, said Jakob Carnemark, founder of Endeavor.

“The Iberian Peninsula is fast-becoming one of the most strategically connected places in the world with excellent fibre networks and an abundance of solar and wind energy resources. This region is a major focus for us as we continue building the first carbon-neutral and water-neutral global platform for data centre edge infrastructure.

“Our focus is to make data centres better stewards of water and energy, and provide resiliency services for the grid as it adopts more variable energy sources,” Carnemark added.

On the move

Logistics is another industry that has seen sharp growth due to Covid but has struggled to green its operations; as such it also features in Merlin's strategy. In addition to the data centres, Edged and Merlin will pioneer a network of more than 100MW of advanced truck-charging positions, alongside the data centres, to support the fast-growing shift to electric trucking.

“Merlin is the largest logistics provider in the Iberian region and all of our clients will face competitive pressure to develop more sustainable business models. We can help them reduce their carbon footprint by building advanced EV charging stations for fleet operations that will also provide support to electric truck companies by providing access to our customer base and our investment in charging infrastructure,” said Brush.

He added: “This partnership will allow us to provide more value to our shareholders and dramatically improve our added value offering to our logistics tenants, but it also helps us meet the needs of our most important stakeholder—the Earth.”

Carnemark said: “Electric trucking is a competitive imperative of booming e-commerce logistics —reducing the cost per mile of transport by more than 60% —but the infrastructure investment is clearly a major hurdle. By deploying this infrastructure as part of the Edged platform, we can better support Merlin's logistics clients.“