Looking for renewable energy? Call the Gulf states
If you're looking for a place to put a green data center, you may find yourself on a plane to warmer climates and the biggest oil producers in the world. Saudi Arabia is putting out bids for the first wave of a $30 billion to $50 billion renewable energy program as a larger part of a diversification effort out of (legacy) oil. Meanwhile, the UAE announced a $50 million fund for renewable energy projects in the Caribbean, building diplomatic bridges while contributing to sustainable development and countering climate change.
OPEC's biggest producer is putting out bids for 400 megawatts of wind and 300 megawatts of solar, reports Bloomberg. By 2023, Saudi Arabia plans to produce close to 10 gigawatts from renewable energy, but the country's overall energy mix will only be around 30 percent renewables and other sources by 2030, with 70 percent of its power coming from natural gas.
Nuclear power is also on the table for the future energy mix, with two reactors in the engineering and design stages—an option less palatable to Greenpeace and its neighbors.
A diversified energy mix is part of a broader move to get the economy out of crude oil sales as the primary moneymaker for the government. Data center planners may want to test the waters in Saudi Arabia, given the commitment to renewable and carbon-free (nuclear) power. One certainly won't find "free cooling" as an advantage, but there are certainly numerous economic and investment incentives available for new businesses.
Through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), the UAE is loaning $15 million towards a hybrid solar and wind project in Antigua and Barbuda. Starting at 10 megawatts with an expected growth to 25 megawatts in additional phases, the project will provide renewable energy to 90,000 people along with energy for the operation of water desalination plants. Overall, the project is expected to make a major contribution to the islands 20 percent target for renewable energy by 2018.
Costa Rica also met with the UAE to discuss increasing its renewable energy mix with some financial assistance. For several years, the country has produced 100 percent of its electricity for extended periods. However, a three year drought attributed to climate change has forced the country to fall back on fossil fuels to generate up to 10 percent of the electricity. Potential renewable investments in combination with other Costa Rica infrastructure improvements have been presented as an opportunity for UAE to investment money.
While locating green data centers closer to the equator is counterintuitive, that's where renewable project money is going. Developing nations will need local data centers to support mobile users and their apps, rather than adding delays by backhauling users to out-of-region facilities. Greenfield opportunities for data centers near the equator could be quite attractive with the combination of renewable energy and Gulf State economic incentives.
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