The world’s first ocean-powered data centre could be online as early as 2024 in the north-east of Scotland, with a pair of giant corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs) pending that would put the wheels in motion for Simec Atlantis Energy’s pioneering MeyGen tidal energy array to build out its next, 80MW phase.
The deals with “major” IT companies are to be announced “as soon as the next two to three weeks”, Recharge has learned, clearing the way for development of a “hyperscale” data centre that would be wired into a “virtual power plant” connecting MeyGen and a number of onshore and island-based wind farms.
All going to plan, the data processing centre, a three-story, 37,500 square foot facility near John O’ Groats, would then be linked to the Celtic Norse subsea fibre optic trunkline currently in development between Dublin, Ireland and Trondheim, Norway, and later, to the Ice cable that would connect up to New York in the US.
“Scotland doesn’t have a hyperscale data centre and out of the 53 fibre-optic connections that link the UK to the rest of the world, [Scotland] only has one, so we have been spending a lot of our time of late planning to change this, looking to link to Trondheim via the Celtic Norse [data] cable line and to the Ice line to New York via the Faroes Islands,” Simec Atlanis CEO Tim Cornelius told Recharge.
“By also connecting up a lot of stranded onshore wind projects [in the north-east of Scotland] and some of the island-based wind that didn’t get CfDs [Contract for Difference tender awards], we will be able to combine all this to create what is effectively a virtual power plant with an 80MW baseload.”
“The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil but data, and by combining [these resources], we can … provide sustainable power to a data centre in Scotland and create important new fibre connections for Scotland and the UK in the process.”
The private-wire PPAs about to be inked, Cornelius noted, will be signed at a levellised cost of energy of “less than €100/MWh” – a fraction of the MeyGen’s €300/MWh LCOE when the project started up in 2018 and below current market retail prices.
“The corporate PPA data market suddenly is becoming unbelievably prospective for us. Data centres are hugely power-hungry and we will be able to supply power to them at [an LCOE] that is lower than the current retail price [of around €115/MWh].”
“This is all so much bigger than tidal. It’s all about data and data connectivity. Think about the fact that once the Celtic Norse cable is laid to Trondheim, then plans are to build the first data cable over the North Pole to Asia [from Norway].”
The MeyGen project, currently made up of four 1.5MW AR1500 Simec Atlantis turbines, has exported almost 25GWh of tidal power into the UK national grid since coming onstream, including 14GWh in 2019, equivalent to the average annual electricity consumption of around 3,800 British homes.
“Not only is [MeyGen] helping the UK meet its net-zero ambitions, but it is also providing valuable performance data which can be used to inform future projects, demonstrating [the project’s] importance as a global prototype,” said Cornelius.
MeyGen – which has a seabed lease for a 398MW tidal power installation – is the flagship of Simec Altantis renewable energy portfolio, but the company, which was formed from the merger of Simec Energy and Atlantis Resources in late 2017, is also developing projects including a “multi-hundred-megawatt” tidal array off France that is being positioned to power the island of Alderney.
Last year, Simec Atlantis also signed a partnership deal with US power technology giant GE to develop commercial-scale tidal power around world, using a 2MW version of the AR1500.