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Worker walking towards the server containers at a data centre

Mature Norwegian data centre industry supports AI explosion

As the digitalisation megatrend continues, Norwegian data centres are prepared to meet the rising demand for high-performance computing (HPC) required for AI applications.

The Norwegian data centre industry has good connectivity, access to a resilient power supply, renewable energy and a low cost of ownership. This enables us to meet the growth of generative AI and HPC.

Gisle Eckhoff

Chairman of the Norwegian Data Centre Industry Association

Norway’s data centre industry has matured considerably in recent years. In terms of connectivity, a decade ago Norway was located in no-man’s land, according to Gisle.

Now it lies at the centre of a fibre-optic connectivity hub, linking it to Continental Europe, North America and the UK.

“Norway is well connected, and this is crucial for our global customers. We aim to use Norway as a hub for big data centres. This is why our mantra is ‘we want to move the gigabyte’, which is far more efficient and sustainable than moving gigawatts,” says Eckhoff, who is also the EVP of Data Centres at Bulk Infrastructure.

Green power on reserve for data centres

Data centres worldwide are notorious for their carbon footprint, accounting for 1 per cent of energy-related GHG emissions. Norway, however, beats the global averages thanks to its large share of hydropower and increasing wind power production. While the war in Ukraine has created shortages in European energy markets, Norway has a reliable grid, and Norwegian colocation centres have reserved power for their customers.

“Energy prices in Europe increased in 2022 due to the war in Ukraine, but less in the Nordics. This year the electricity prices in the Nordics have decreased and normalised compared to the extraordinarily high prices last year. This means Norwegian data centres are highly competitive in terms of renewable energy cost,” says Atle Haga, Head Commercial Advisor at Statkraft Industry Development. He is also Vice Chairman of the Norwegian Data Centre Industry Association.

Security gate at an underground data centre
Level 3 security gate at Lefdal Mine Datacenter.

Global leader in sustainable data centres

All industry players give high priority to sustainability. In addition to green energy, Norwegian data centres utilise natural cooling and reuse of waste heat. In some creative solutions, Green Mountain has signed an agreement with Hima Seafood and Norwegian Lobster Farm on the reuse of waste heat by aquaculture, while Lefdal Mine Datacenter – one of the largest in Europe – is located underground in an abandoned mine.

“In Norway, data centres have reduced their CO2 emissions significantly, and we are just getting started. We are well positioned to help international companies to meet their ESG requirements, including the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities and the European Code of Conduct for energy efficiency in data centres,” Eckhoff points out.

Lowest cost of ownership in Europe

Rightly or wrongly, Norway has a global reputation for high costs, but its data centre industry is busting this myth. For one thing, land for data centres is abundant and relatively inexpensive, costing just 10 per cent of a similar plot in Central Europe, according to Eckhoff.

This is part of the value proposition for Norwegian energy giant Statkraft, which is also Europe’s largest producer of renewable energy. The company provides greenfield sites in Norway for power-intensive operations such as data centres. With decades of experience, Statkraft acquires the land and handles zoning, licensing, environmental assessment and electrical consent applications.

When these major components are in place, then we have a piece of powered land to offer. This lowers the investment risk and upfront costs for international companies seeking to establish data centres in Norway

Atle Haga

Head Commercial Advisor at Statkraft Industry Development

Photo of a data centre under construction

Slashing data centre costs with prefab solutions

CTS Nordics specialises in the design and build of data centres in the Nordic region.

To reverse the trend towards rising costs, the company has standardised the construction process with solutions such as prefab manufacturing and modular building components.

“We have seen costs naturally increasing in our industry. One reason is the need for larger data centres to handle the data processing demands of AI, machine learning and the like. We have devised solutions that create efficiency gains and cost savings,” states Rolf Arne Storøy, Business Development Manager at CTS Nordics.

The innovative approach accelerates the building process as well. “Our customers demand that design and build will be done much more quickly at a lower cost. This means we can’t use the traditional method where it can take six months just to sign a contract,” he adds.

Complete value chain proves industry maturity

A sure sign of maturity is the industry’s complete value chain. “The ecosystem is more complete than ever before, whether we are talking about co-location centres, site developers, or design and build contractors,” says Haga of Statkraft.

A catalyst for this has been the Norwegian Data Centre Industry Association, which formed in 2021 when industry players joined forces to accelerate industry growth. Collaboration has also been crucial for meeting tomorrow’s digitalisation demands. The association now has over 50 members.

“We work vis-a-vis the government, the international market and the entire value chain. By doing so, we have all the building blocks in place to deliver the necessary capacity with high expertise,” says Eckhoff.

Moreover, it is notable that Norway has a national data centre strategy, indicating a strong public commitment to growth in the data centre industry.

Workers walking down the server hallway inside a data centre
Lefdal Mine Datacenter's halls are located underground in an abandoned mine.

World-class data centre market in Norway

Thanks to these coordinated efforts, Norwegian data centre market is projected to grow at a rate of 17.25 per cent from 2022 to 2027. Many global heavyweights, including Google, have invested in Norway, and international cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have a presence in the country.

“Norway is the perfect location for high-density workloads. With the government’s focus on renewable energy, Norway is positioned as a resilient and environmentally conscious energy leader. Alongside its green credentials, the country is politically stable and has a climate unaffected by natural disasters. We are actively seeking partners that align with our vision, particularly in the exciting fields of HPC,” Eckhoff concludes.