Facebook Plans Server Farm in Sweden; Cold Is Great for Servers

Company plans server farm in northern Sweden, perfect to keep computers cool.

Oct. 27, 2011 — -- If you were Facebook, one of the most successful startups in sunny Silicon Valley, why would you expand to Lulea, Sweden? The company announced today it is building its first European server farm there.

Lulea, 600 miles north of Stockholm and just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle, is literally the land of the midnight sun -- but Facebook did not pick it for the sunshine. Instead, said the company, much of the appeal is the cold.

Servers -- the big computer banks that keep websites running -- have a bad habit of getting very hot and using a lot of electricity. Facebook said northern Sweden solves the problem -- cooling the machines with Arctic air. They'll do a high-tech version of opening the windows.

"Lulea offered a number of advantages," said a company spokesperson, including "a climate that offers the ability to reduce energy consumption through use of outside air for cooling."

There also happens to be a large, fast-flowing river nearby, complete with a large hydroelectric dam that local officials said generates twice as much electricity as the Hoover Dam.

Facebook, like a lot of major technology companies, likes the idea of green power. Google has a data center in southern Finland that is cooled by seawater from the Baltic Sea, and Apple is reported to be setting up a solar power farm near its data center in Maiden, N.C.

"The Lulea data center will draw its power almost exclusively from hydroelectric sources," Facebook said. "The result is a data center that is significantly more efficient than the industry standard, saving energy and reducing its environmental footprint."

The Lulea facility will be giant -- 900,000 square feet -- and even with the natural air conditioning, it will need 120 megawatts of electricity, enough to power something like 16,000 average homes.

Facebook is bursting at the seams. It has more than 800 million users worldwide, and says people's Facebook posts will go up more efficiently if the site's servers are closer to them.

"Facebook has more users outside the U.S. than inside," said Tom Furlong, Facebook's director of site operations, in a conversation with The Associated Press. "It was time for us to expand in Europe."