The new data centres will host a number of Apple services for European customers, including the iTunes Store, App Store, iMessage text messaging service, Apple Maps and Siri, its voice-controlled personal assistant. By hosting the data within the European Union, Apple could avoid the need to export EU users’ data to the US or other data protection regimes, a sensitive issue as EU legislators discuss renewing the bloc’s data protection regime.
Apple plans to spend a total of €1.7 billion (AU$2.7 billion) on the two data centres, which will each cover around 166,000 square metres.
The company’s plans to use green power – in line with its policy in the US, where it has built photovoltaic plants alongside new data centres – will win it local allies, although other US technology giants, including Facebook and Google, have already opened data centres on the continent with strong green credentials.
Facebook opened its first non-US data centre in Luleå, Sweden, in June 2013, using hydroelectric power from the local utility. The data centre’s location on the edge of the Arctic Circle makes free cooling an obvious and economic option, with waste heat used to warm offices on the site.
Google plans to power its data centre in Finland with electricity from a wind farm in neighbouring Sweden when the facility opens later this year.
Apple too is counting on wind power, and plans to site its new facilities in two of Europe’s windiest countries, Ireland and Denmark.
The Danish data centre will be in Viborg in central Jutland, and will feed waste heat into the district heating system. Apple will build no new generating capacity there initially, but the data centre will be connected directly to the country’s power grid, which already obtains 28 percent of its electricity from the wind, according to the Danish Wind Industry Association.
The other data centre will be in Athenry, Ireland, where Apple plans to reclaim land currently used for commercial forestry in Athenry, and to help restore a patch of native woodland in Roscommon, some 70 kilometres from the data centre.
Apple said it will work with local partners to develop additional wind or other renewable energy generation projects in the future.