News24

Swedish town eyes digital age

2011-11-27 14:27

Stockholm - Perched near the Arctic Circle, the Swedish town of Luleaa hopes that a massive data centre for US social networking giant Facebook will launch the vibrant industrial region into the digital age as a European data traffic hub.

"The digital industry will be an important addition to our town," said mayor Karl Petersen.

With a population of 74 000, Luleaa has long been home to Sweden's thriving steel industry, with one of the world's leading producers, SSAB, based there and it is also a key hub for the mining and pulp and paper sectors.

Facebook announced in October it had chosen the Swedish town for its first European data centre, and third globally, in large part because of its "suitable climate for environmental cooling (and) clean power resources."

The icy region, located on the same latitude as Fairbanks, Alaska, was especially attractive due to its climate, "since cooling (computer) servers is a major issue for data centres," Facebook said.

The company is expected to pump between $440m and $734m into the data centre, creating 300 new construction jobs for the next few years and then 50 to 60 permanent jobs, Petersen said.

"This is the biggest single investment in Luleaa since the steel plant was built in 1940," he added.

He hopes the data centre will put Luleaa on the map, attracting other businesses to the region dubbed the "Node Pole."

One of the main reasons Facebook selected Luleaa was that the data centre could run primarily on renewable hydropower.

The Lule river that runs through the town supplies Sweden with 9% of its electricity and has proved a stable energy source for the town's industries for decades.

The data centre will consist of three server buildings.