Cool Finnish weather the new hotness for data centers

Updated: Finland’s chilly weather might sometimes be depressing for residents and visitors, but it’s the major reason why the country is suddenly the hot new locale for green data centers. The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that following Google’s (s GOOG) construction of its mega, green data center in Finland this year, other Internet companies are following suit, including an undisclosed U.S. Internet company widely believe to be Facebook. According to the report, Facebook is thought to be building a data center that costs between $459 million and $764 million outside of the SwedFinnish town Luleå, next to the border of Finland.

The chief reason for the sudden interest in using the country as a data center haven is the cold weather. Internet giants like Google are starting to incorporate more and more outside air cooling, using the environment to cool servers, instead of inefficient, power-hungry chillers. The traditionally used chillers can suck up to half of the energy consumption of the entire data center, so eliminating them and turning to the outside air for cooling can reduce the overall energy consumption and energy costs of the data center.

But the outside air, of course, needs to be chilly enough, to properly cool down the data center. For data centers that do incorporate outside cooling, their energy efficiency metrics (PUE) fluctuate along with the summer and winter months — the data center is less efficient during the hotter months and is more efficient in the winter. Google has advocated the increased use of outside air (see video below), and says it uses outside cooling in some capacity for all of its data centers.

In Google’s Finnish data center, it not only uses the cold air, but also the cold seas; Google’s data center is one of the first data centers in the world to be cooled by seawater. Google bought a former paper mill in Finland in 2009, and set out to use the building’s massive quarter-mile long seawater tunnels to push water up into the building to cool a data center. This isn’t something that very many other Internet companies would do, but Google told me earlier this year that the economics of the sea water cooling work because the facility is so large, and the location so uncommon.

There are a few other reasons that Internet companies are flocking to Finland, too. The country has low electricity prices, it has broadband in spades, and it’s close to some emerging markets like Russia.

Image courtesy of TeamEki.